Great Work by NM Tech at South Dakota Mini Baja Competition

Mini Baja Vehicle

by Tiffany Chisum

Right: Tech's Mini Baja vehicle at rest.

SOCORRO, N.M., July 11, 2007 – An all-terrain vehicle designed, built, and raced by a team of engineering students at New Mexico Tech did well in the annual Mini Baja West competition this past May. The competition, which took place at and near South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City, South Dakota, hosted more than 90 cars.

The New Mexico Tech team competed in both static and dynamic events, including sales presentation, cost, design, rock crawl, hill climb, acceleration, land maneuverability, and a four hour endurance race.

Teams from all over the United States, as well as from Canada, Mexico, France, South Africa, and South Korea, participated in the four–day competition. Before being allowed to compete in any of the events, each car is required to undergo and pass a technical inspection.

Mini Baja

Left: Tech's Mini Baja vehicle in action. J. Ryan Davis is driving the car in the endurance race

At the end of Mini Baja West, New Mexico Tech had an overall placing of 33 and the car ranked even higher in several of the individual events: “Car 18,” named for its placement at the start of the competition, finished 7th in the rock crawl; 9th in the sales presentation; and stayed in the top 25th percentile for most of the other events. Were it not for mishaps in the endurance race and a disagreeable ranking in design, the Tech team may well have received an overall score among the top 20 cars. In addition, the team also received the third place Autodesk Inventor Design Communication Award.

Representing a comparatively small university located in a small town, the New Mexico Tech Mini Baja team does not have some of the resources and possible funding sources that many of the other participating teams have available to them.

New Mexico Tech senior Ryan Davis, a team member and the anticipated 2007-2008 team captain, said that it was “very common to see a university that had two or more cars entered in the competition.”

With over 90 cars participating, coupled with other differences between New Mexico Tech and larger universities, the Tech team did very well.

New Mexico Tech’s Mini Baja is a design project currently offered for both Junior and Senior Design classes in the Mechanical Engineering Department. This design project comes full circle every two semesters, as opposed to the traditional four. Students earn class credits designing and building an all-terrain vehicle from the ground up, and, then participate in the Baja SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) competition. Students gain real world experience while utilizing information learned in classes and learning real-world lessons of team work and time management.

There are nine students on the Tech Mini Baja team and each one of them contributed to the project. Juniors are paired with seniors so that information will be continually passed on from “generation to generation,” so to speak. Presentations, progress reports, and cost analyses associated with the team project are required for the classes themselves.

All cars competing in the Mini Baja use the same 10-horsepower Intek Model 20 engine donated by Briggs & Stratton. All other parts and funding must be procured by the team itself.

New Mexico Tech administrative offices of Academic Affairs and Research and Development have been big supporters of the team. In addition, Socorro businesses, such as El Camino Restaurant, Gambles-True Value, AutoZone, Jim’s Paint & Body, RAKS, Wells Fargo, and First State Bank have donated money, services, and/or parts to help support the Tech team.

In preparation for this past Mini Baja, some Tech team members also started looking for help from businesses in their hometowns (Merrion Oil & Gas, M&R Trucking, and Two Cross Production were large contributors from Farmington, NM). Administrators at New Mexico Tech agreed to provide funding for travel costs incurred by the team.

Davis was most pleased with the craftsmanship of the car, and said that everyone on the team brought something to the project. He said that “lack of experience and learning effective teamwork were most definitely the greatest challenges.” However, Davis said he is hoping to do better on the design report and testing of the car next year.