Baja event thrills; Penn College finishes fourth in endurance

Published 05.19.2024

Photos by Alexandra Butler, photographer/photo editor, and Rob Hinkal, social media specialist (unless otherwise noted)

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Getting a little mud on the tires, Baja SAE Williamsport did not disappoint in unique course designs, beautiful vistas and hospitality.

The exhilarating world of off-road racing captivated competitors and fans at Baja SAE Williamsport, hosted by Pennsylvania College of Technology May 16-19. 

Attracting 102 collegiate engineering teams from across the U.S., Canada and Brazil, the event concluded Sunday afternoon with an awards ceremony following the competition’s signature event, the four-hour endurance race. Penn College finished fourth in the endurance race, with Virginia Tech capturing first place out of the 89 teams that started the race. Penn College was one of just four teams to complete 50-plus laps in the final test. It’s the 15th top-10 finish for the team in the endurance race since 2011.

In overall standings, Penn College came in 10th, thanks in part to the home team posting two other top-10 finishes: fourth in suspension and traction and eighth in maneuverability. Five other contests were part of the competition. Capturing the overall first-place finish was École de technologie supérieure, a public research university from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Often referred to as ÉTS, it is affiliated with the Université du Québec system.

Watch Penn College News for more coverage of Baja SAE Williamsport.

Held at Penn College's Heavy Construction Equipment Training Operations Site in Brady Township, Baja SAE Williamsport offers ample space for competitors and spectators.
The elevated site has stunning views of northcentral Pennsylvania scenery and the Susquehanna River.
Penn College Baja SAE team captain Marshall W. Fowler gets his game face on.
Lining up for Sunday morning's four-hour endurance race
Signaling his team's sign is the driver for Brazil's Centro Universitário da FEI.
Fans are ready.
Sen. Gene Yaw, chair of Penn College's Board of Director, prepares to wave the green start flag.
Taking flight: the entry from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
An active scene on various levels
A vertical view illustrates the venue's elevations.
Mud flies with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas car.
Cheers for Rochester Institute of Technology
A festival-like scene
Pace-O-Matic was the Baja SAE Williamsport meal sponsor, supporting the cost of 1,700 lunches (prepared by Le Jeune Chef) for each day of the event. (Photo shared by Loni N. Kline, senior vice president for college relations.)
Making their way, encased in mud
A fan from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas records the day.
A photo op with supporters of the University of Alabama team
Multiple lanes
Refueling reinforcements are ready.
Due to an accident on the course, there's a delay in competition.
A car passes "the ladder" which proved problematic for all teams the day before in the suspension and traction contest.
And you thought your morning commute was challenging!
A pit stop ...
... and driver change.
During the endurance race, Fowler (in Penn College's #39 car) ascends a hill and catches a photographer's eye.
Passing by in #39, Fowler waves to a photographer. (Photo by Becky J. Shaner, senior manager of donor relations and special events)
Another unique view of #39 (Photo also shared by Becky J. Shaner)
Penn College team member Isaac H. Thollot completes the endurance race ...
... and Penn College President Michael J. Reed waves the checkered flag as the home team logs a fourth-place finish.
Reed and Yaw enjoy the day.
The Penn College team celebrates its fourth-place finish in the endurance race and 10th place overall.
Volunteers in blue shirts serve up food to the competitors, including Marci Hessert (on right), office assistant to the assistant dean of diesel technology and natural resources, and, to her right, John J. Confer. Confer is a Penn College Baja SAE team sponsor and a member of the Penn College Foundation Board of Directors. (Photo also shared by Becky J. Shaner)
Saturday begins with rain ...
... but fan spirit is not dampened.
Saturday’s four competitions, including suspension and traction, excite onlookers.
The scene of the hill climb contest
Bundled up for the weather, fans delight in the day ...
... including the littlest spectators.
Beginning the day clean and shiny: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Scraping mud with a flathead screwdriver
Reed engages with visiting teams.
A Tennessee Tech Golden Eagle shows his pride.
Tires to tires! Penn College's car works on the suspension and traction course.
The suspension & traction course proves to be a wicked challenge.
Descriptions for the course include "fun" and "gnarly."
Not one team finished the suspension & traction course, but they all had fun trying!
A thumbs-up from Baylor University
Iowa State University splashes its way through the water hole in the maneuverability test.
Thanks for 240 volunteers (120 from Penn College), the event ran smoothly.
Among alumni volunteers: Whitnie-rae Mays, sporting the best accessory of the weekend: rain/mud boots!
Virginia Tech angles its way in maneuverability. The team won the endurance race and placed third overall.
An innovative design is fielded by the all-women's team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
A nose dive
Kansas State University Wildcats on the loose
Friday's sunrise is captured by Penn College Police Officer Porter Kling.
Oklahoma Christian University is all smiles Friday morning.
Clarkson University heads to design judging
Competitors network with sponsors.
Alumnus Nathan White (second from right), representing Hardinge, has a captive audience in the meet-and-greet tent.
A team member with Christian Brothers University makes an adjustment.
A photo op with Laurentian University
Tired and tailgating
Inspections and judging
Ready for design judging: Zips Baja Racing Team from the University of Akron
A last-minute weld
Fowler shares the Penn College car design.
Ohio State University presents its design to judges.
Brake check and practice track ...
... are the Friday afternoon fare.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County kicks up dust.
Penn College is ready for brake check.
A full team escort
Michael Pace (in black hat), chairman of Pace-O-Matic, talks shop with the Penn College Baja SAE team during Friday's activities. (Photo shared by Loni N. Kline, senior vice president for college relations.)
Volunteers await their next call to action.
Davie Jane Gilmour (left), president emerita of Penn College, is always willing to support.
UCLA gets set for practice track.
Trying out the Polaris vehicles: Natalie Mikala (left) and Maddie Harvey, of TCNJ School of Engineering, part of The College of New Jersey
A representative of Onshape connects with competitors.
Spin the wheel for a giveaway!
Aaron Spotts, of Lycoming Engines, is happy to network.
Tim Montes, a member of the Knights Racing Baja SAE team from the University of Central Florida, is among those bringing the fun.
Penn College's "mascot" waves to everyone.
Kansas State University is relaxed and ready for competition.
Penn College Baja alumni returned to lend their expertise to the endeavor, including one of the founding members, Zachary R. Mazur, who was on Penn College's first Baja team in 2006.
A parting drone shot captures Bradley M. Webb (front center with "floppy hat" and red sleeves), Penn College's dean of engineering technologies; the Penn College team and a few of the other competitors. Until next time! (Image by Christopher J. Leigh, video producer.)