Penn College dedicates ‘Baja Room’ for successful team
Photos by Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist/photographer
A new dedicated space for Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Baja SAE team befits its recent accomplishments in international competitions.
The school created the Penn College Baja Room in the Larry A. Ward Machining Technologies Center with the financial support of Ken Healy and his wife, Kristie. A Penn College alumnus, Ken Healy is the executive vice president and director of engineering at PMF Industries Inc.
The Baja Room – measuring approximately 22 feet by 36 feet – serves as a workspace and organizational hub for the club and its single-seat car. Equipment and supplies related to the team’s task of designing, manufacturing and building the vehicle for Baja SAE events is housed in the room.
“This commitment from the Healys creates a great lab for these students to learn and build during their time at Penn College. We are most grateful for their support,” said Bradley M. Webb, dean of engineering technologies, during the May 1 dedication ceremony.
The Baja team consists of about 15 students seeking various degrees offered by the School of Engineering Technologies. The students log countless hours throughout the year preparing the car for two annual Baja SAE competitions that feature an array of colleges and universities from the United States and several other countries.
“The members of this team are highly sought by industry,” Webb said. “They not only have the technical expertise needed in industry, but they are problem-solvers and communicators. They know what it’s like to work under pressure and to have to explain their ideas and actions to others.”
“Every aspect of our car is designed, manufactured and tested by students of the team. Every nut, every bolt, every bearing has to be thought of when designing these vehicles,” said Marshall W. Fowler, of Sellersville, who is majoring in engineering design technology and serves as president of the Penn College Baja SAE Club. “We run into problems all the time where a design doesn’t work out fully, and we have to figure out how to solve the issues or we don’t get to race.”
Conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Baja competitions require schools to plan and build an all-terrain vehicle to survive various challenges. The four-hour endurance race over rough terrain is Baja SAE’s preeminent event. Last year, Penn College won the endurance race at both Baja SAE Rochester and Baja SAE Tennessee Tech, besting 70-plus other schools, including Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Cornell and Virginia Tech.
“The Baja team has a special place in my heart. These students are doing it right, and we are thankful to be a small piece of their support behind the scenes,” said Healy, who earned an associate degree in engineering drafting technology in 1990 and a bachelor’s in manufacturing engineering technology in 2001.
“We greatly appreciate the generosity of Ken and Kristie Healy to make this space possible,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of manufacturing and machining and adviser to Penn College’s Baja SAE club since its inception 18 years ago. “We outgrew our old space. Having a dedicated area like this for our team will be a tremendous benefit going forward.”
The Penn College Baja Room includes tool cabinets, a welding bench, ample counter space, four computer workstations, and the car in various stages of production. According to Fowler, there are more than 1,000 parts on the car that must be itemized, ordered or manufactured.
“There is no better feeling than seeing the part that you designed or machined in action, zipping around in the four-hour endurance race,” Fowler said.
The new season for the Penn College team begins later this week at Baja SAE Oshkosh in Wisconsin. The club also plans to compete at Baja SAE Ohio in September. This year’s events have required the team to redesign the car’s secondary continuously variable transmission and make parts from scratch for a new four-wheel-drive system.
For more information on Penn College’s Baja SAE team and sponsorship opportunities, visit College Relations.
For information on degrees offered by Penn College’s School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.