Penn College’s Baja Team Proves to be ‘Dynamic’
Mother Nature hampered the quest of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Baja SAE team, but she couldn’t prevent a dynamic performance by the students at the recent Society of Automotive Engineers international competition in Pittsburg, Kansas.
Penn College posted a school-best three top 10 finishes in dynamic events, besting the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Oklahoma and Clemson in the process.
“I’m very proud of how both the students and car performed,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of manufacturing and machining and the team’s adviser since its inception in 2005. “The results validate the hard work and countless hours the students dedicated to designing, manufacturing and testing the car.”
Baja SAE requires schools to build a single-seat, dune buggy-like vehicle. Teams must present comprehensive design and cost reports to industry judges before putting their car to the test in a series of dynamic events, culminating with a four-hour endurance race.
With seven top 10 finishes in the endurance race since 2011, including a seventh-place showing at Baja SAE Maryland in April, Penn College aimed to win the race in Kansas. However, engine trouble caused by extremely wet conditions on the course eliminated that possibility. Storms battered the region throughout the competition and forced the endurance race to conclude about 90 minutes early.
“Unfortunately, you can’t control the weather,” Upcraft said. “The vast majority of cars in the endurance race had some sort of engine trouble because of all the water on the course. It’s disappointing that we didn’t have a dry track for all the cars to be at their best, but those are the breaks. The quality of our car was really demonstrated during the dynamic events.”
Penn College finished second out of 73 cars in the suspension and traction competition. The event required schools to navigate a rugged 497-foot course, which according to Upcraft was “designed to break your car.”
The No. 14 car from Penn College didn’t break. Instead it completed the course in 33.621 seconds, good for a 200-pound, second-place trophy and $500 check from event sponsor Volvo.
“The trophy is great. We just don’t know where we can put it. It also takes a couple of us to lift it,” Upcraft said with a laugh.
In the acceleration category, Penn College traveled the required 100 feet in 3.936 seconds for fourth place in the 77-car field.
The maneuverability event tested the handling and steering of cars on a narrow course featuring numerous tight turns. Penn College’s clean run in 42.203 seconds was the eighth best out of 55 cars.
Trevor M. Clouser, a manufacturing engineering technology student from Millmont, served as the team’s driver throughout the competition.
“This was Trevor’s first time driving at Baja, and he did a tremendous job,” Upcraft said. “We are in good shape having him behind the wheel going forward.”
This fall, the team will begin modifying its 335-pound car in preparation for at least two competitions in the spring of 2019.
“Knowing our students, they will be raring to go when school starts again,” Upcraft said. “Their year-round dedication to Baja SAE is very impressive. They want to add to our tradition of strong showings at the competition.”
In addition to Clouser, members of the college’s Baja team who competed in Kansas were manufacturing engineering technology students Logan B. Goodhart, of Chambersburg; Jonathan R. Sutcliffe, of Orangeville; Travis J. Scholtz, of New Kensington; Christopher M. Schweikert, of Jamison; and Shujaa AlQahtani, of Saudi Arabia. Engineering design technology students Matthew J. Nyman, of Lock Haven, and Mark A. Turek, of Red Lion, were also part of the team. Other participants included Joshua J. Cover, of Selinsgrove, automotive technology management; Mathias Decker, of Farmington, machine tool technology; and Daniel M. Gerard, of Doylestown, automated manufacturing technology.
“I tip my cap to the Baja students,” said David R. Cotner, dean of Penn College’s School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies. “No matter the conditions that they face, they represent themselves and the college in the best possible manner. I can’t wait to see what they do next year!”
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