Penn College Baja SAE team records another top-10 finish
Photos by Mary Fowler (mother of competitor Marshall W. Fowler)
Pennsylvania College of Technology students added a new chapter to their history of success at Baja SAE with a recent top-10 finish in the competition’s premier event.
At Baja SAE Ohio, Penn College placed ninth in the four-hour endurance race, considered the toughest test at the international showcase. Schools are required to design, manufacture and build a single-seat, all-terrain, four-wheel-drive vehicle to survive various challenges.
The result marked the college’s 14th top 10-finish in the endurance race since 2011.
“I am proud of the students’ effort. They worked hard,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of manufacturing and machining and adviser to Penn College’s Baja SAE club. “It’s only our second race with the four-wheel-drive system, which became mandatory this year. Most other schools have been using four-wheel drive for the past couple of years.”
In 2022, Penn College won the last two endurance races permitting two-wheel-drive cars.
The team consists of students from several engineering-related majors who devote countless hours to building and testing the Baja car. About 90% of the vehicle’s parts are made and assembled by the students.
“The amount of work required is really hard to explain if you haven’t been through it,” Upcraft said. “We’re talking nights and weekends throughout the year to work on all aspects of the car. That type of commitment is necessary to be successful at the competition.”
Of the 51 cars in the endurance race at Baja SAE Ohio, only 11 completed at least 40 laps around a motocross course in Nashport, located about 60 miles east of Columbus. Penn College recorded 46 laps. Thirteen cars failed to finish 10 laps. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas won the event.
“The course wasn’t as rugged as previous endurance races, but it did feature a pond about 3-feet deep. That proved to be challenging at times,” Upcraft said.
Penn College’s ninth-place performance bested the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Cornell, Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia and the University of Arizona.
In other events, Penn College finished seventh out of 48 entries in acceleration and 11th out of 41 cars in maneuverability.
Members of the Penn College team who competed at Baja SAE Ohio were automated manufacturing technology students Daniel W. Bujcs, Allentown; and Brian P. Rogers, Kunkletown; manufacturing engineering technology students Nick J. Benninger, Bloomsburg; Trevor J. Lindsay, Mechanicsburg; Chethan C. Meda, Corning, N.Y.; Alec D. Rees, Centerport, N.Y.; and Isaac H. Thollot, Milford; engineering design technology students Casey B. Campbell, Kennerdell; and Marshall W. Fowler, Sellersville; engineering CAD technology student Thomas J. Bodei Jr., Toms River, N.J.; and machine tool technology student Jack J. Stump, York.
Lead sponsors for the team include John Estep and E-Tech Industrial Corp., the Gene Haas Foundation, Ken and Kristie Healy, Lycoming Engines, Shannon Massey, and Larry Ward.
“The whole way home from Ohio, the team talked about what they want to do to make the car better. They’re excited about the possibilities. There’s a lot of fat that we can trim on the four-wheel-drive components to get the car’s weight down,” Upcraft said.
The vehicle weighs 394 pounds.
“The students really want to do well at the next competition because it’s going to be a very special one for us,” Upcraft said. “It’s going to be on our turf.”
Penn College will host Baja SAE Williamsport May 16-19 at the college’s Schneebeli Earth Science Center near Montgomery and Allenwood. The event is expected to attract 80-plus teams and over 800 competitors.
For more information on Penn College’s Baja SAE team and sponsorship opportunities, visit College Relations.
For information on degrees offered by the college’s School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.