Collaborative effort revs up Penn College’s Baja SAE team

Published 03.25.2019

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A collaborative multidisciplinary effort is fueling Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Baja SAE team’s preparation for two major international competitions sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

The Penn College team will compete at Baja SAE Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee, April 11-14 and at Baja SAE Rochester in Rochester, New York, June 6-9.

“The past success of the team has sparked a lot of interest from students in a variety of majors,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of manufacturing and machining and adviser to the college’s Baja SAE club since its 2005 inception. “Traditionally, our team primarily consisted of manufacturing and machining students. Now we have other students offering their services, including some as part of their coursework. It’s great that more people are assisting and have a stake in the team’s achievements."

Members of Penn College’s Baja SAE team take a break during a day of testing their vehicle in preparation for Baja SAE Tennessee Tech, scheduled for April 11-14 in Cookeville, Tenn. From left are Christopher M. Schweikert, of Jamison; Dakota C. Harrison, of Lewisberry; Corey J. Mason, of Lake City; Justin R. Dahlberg, of Manahawkin, N.J.; Daniel M. Gerard, of Doylestown; John D. Kleinfelter, of Lebanon; Trevor M. Clouser, of Millmont; Shujaa AlQahtani, of Saudi Arabia; Mark A. Turek, of Red Lion; Dylan A. Bianco, of State College; Dominic J. Lepri, of Monroe Township, N.J.; David Carlson, of Elizabethtown; Morgan R. Bagenstose, of Reading; and Matthew J. Nyman, of Lock Haven.Penn College has become a force in Baja SAE competitions, which require students to design and build a single-seat, off-road vehicle to survive various performance tests, including the marquee event, a four-hour endurance race over rough terrain. The college has recorded seven top 10 finishes in the endurance event since 2011. Approximately 100 colleges and universities from throughout the world compete.

“We’ve had a car capable of winning for the past few years,” said team captain Shujaa AlQahtani, a manufacturing engineering technology major from Saudi Arabia. “To finish first in the endurance race, we need a perfect run, and that’s what we are going for.”

A student-designed continuously variable transmission boosts the team’s confidence in achieving that goal. The students decided to craft their own CVT after taking a purchased CVT “as far as it could go the past two years,” according to Upcraft.

 “Our new CVT is three pounds lighter than the old version, is made of better material (titanium and aluminum) and provides a greater shift range,” Upcraft said. “We expect it to be more efficient and reliable than what we were using.”

Dylan A. Bianco, of State College, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in engineering design technology, devised the primary CVT as part of his senior project.

“We told him the shift range we wanted, gave him the belt we wanted to use, and he did all the design work,” Upcraft said.

Matthew J. Nyman, an engineering design technology major from Lock Haven and member of the Baja team, designed the secondary CVT for his senior project.

Another engineering design technology student – David Carlson, of Elizabethtown – graphed the CVT design on spreadsheets to judge its potential performance.

“By graphing engine RPM and force on the pulley on our old CVT, the spreadsheets gave us a baseline to compare with our new design,” Upcraft said. “Information from the graphs led us to slightly alter our original design. The graphs based off the new design show that our CVT should have more desirable shifting characteristics than what we were using.”

Team members manufactured and assembled the various parts for half the cost of purchasing a new CVT. AlQahtani made the majority of parts for the primary CVT on the Genos M560 vertical machine center that towers above all instructional equipment in the college’s 12,000-square-foot automated manufacturing lab. The students have access to the high-end computer-numerical-control unit built by the Okuma Corp. through May, thanks to a collaboration among the college, longtime partner Lycoming Engines and machine tool distributor Gosiger.

In addition to AlQahtani and Nyman, other team members who will represent the college at the Tennessee competition are manufacturing engineering technology students Christopher M. Schweikert, of Jamison; John D. Kleinfelter, of Lebanon; Trevor M. Clouser, of Millmont; Myron D. Milliken, of Lewistown; Dakota C. Harrison, of Lewisberry; and Dominic J. Lepri, of Monroe Township, New Jersey; engineering design technology students Bradley M. Haines, of Mifflinburg; Mark A. Turek, of Red Lion; and Jacob C. Hudock, of Berwick; engineering CAD technology student automated manufacturing technology student Daniel M. Gerard, of Doylestown; and building construction technology student Stephen T. Lang, of Mercer.

Teammate Sapphire E. Naugle, of Jersey Shore, isn’t able to attend the Tennessee competition, but her contribution will be “felt.” The plastics and polymer engineering technology student is working with Joshua J. Rice, instructor of plastics and polymer technology, and Christopher J. Gagliano, project manager of the college’s Plastics Innovation & Resource Center, to develop a new seat for the Baja car.

On a volunteer basis, the plastics crew created a mold and are using that mold to thermoform a seat out of polycarbonate.

“The Baja team is always trying to minimize weight and improve performance,” Rice said. “The polycarbonate seat should have improved impact resistance and toughness over the existing seat. It should also be a bit lighter, which will improve the vehicle’s efficiency.”

As part of a class project, a separate group of students is working to assist future Penn College Baja teams. Mechatronics students under the director of Howard W. Troup, instructor of automated manufacturing and machine tool technology, are building a nonregenerative AC motoring dynamometer with parts the college has obtained during the past few years.

“The dyno would cost over $150,000 brand-new,” Troup said. “Our students are making one for about $4,000. It’s rare for schools to have access to this type of dyno.”

Once completed, the dyno will facilitate testing on the Baja car without the 330-pound, dune-buggy-like vehicle leaving the lab. According to Troup, the dyno will measure the horsepower and torque of the engine and the output shaft of the CVT, monitor the downshifting and sheave positioning of the CVT, and create a load on the drivetrain to set up and tune the CVT.

“It can also be used to completely recreate the load encountered on the engine and CVT during racing conditions on certain tracks if we collect the required data from prior races,” Troup said.

The students building and mounting the dyno’s mechanical and electrical systems are Chet W. Karpyn, of Germansville; Andrew C. Engle, of Williamsport; Brian J. Daniels, of Lake City; Nathaniel A. Haefka, of Wyalusing; Nicholas E. Havard, of Laceyville; Joshua P. Maceno, of Tyrone; Alessio A. Mannino, of New Hope; Hunter L. Rumburg, of Red Lion; and Dalton W. Spotts, of Trout Run.

Troup expects the students to complete their work by the end of the semester. In the fall, electronics and computer engineering technology major Nicholas J. Veihdeffer, of Hyde, plans to finish the job for his senior project. He’ll ensure that the various components communicate with one another, and the resulting data will be sent to a human machine interface touchscreen display.

“I’m very proud to see students from diverse majors apply the knowledge and skills they are gaining at the college in such a collaborative effort,” said David R. Cotner, dean of Penn College’s School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies. “It serves as a good preview of what students can expect when they enter the workforce. Industry often requires collaboration among different units to successfully complete projects. I’m also confident that the result of this collaboration will benefit the college’s outstanding Baja team, not only this year, but well into the future.”

For information about majors offered by the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. Email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.