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A team of mechanical engineering students is preparing to compete in the 2002 Midwest Mini-Baja Competition in Madison, Wis., May 31-June 1.

The group is comprised of seniors Sam Chambers (Norristown, Pa.), Tim Bishop (Lafayette, Calif.), Mike Neary (Baldwin, Md.), Jason Lewis (North Powder, Ore.), Ian Pierce (Longwood, Fla.), Raoul Ngendahayo (Arusha, Tanzania), Brian Ladouceur (Warwick, R.I.), and Neil Lovrich (Monroe Twp., N.J.). Terry DeRossett, director of the mechanical engineering lab, is the project adviser.

The students are working together to design, test, and race an off-road vehicle. They are collectively responsible for acquiring financial support and writing detailed explanations about the creation of the vehicle. They have received funding through local stores and alumni who were involved in past competitions.

Although the team is comprised of seniors who are earning credit for their mechanical engineering senior design project, sophomores and juniors who are members of the Baja Club are also encouraged to help.

Chambers, the design leader and president of the Baja Club, has been involved with the project for two years. As a junior, Chambers was a member of the Baja Club and became active in the past vehicle’s design. He also attended last year’s competition in Troy, Ohio, where Lafayette placed 44th among 96 teams. Enthusiastic about designing the car for this year’s competition, Chambers spent time over summer break reading books on cars so he would be prepared when he returned to school.

“I became aware of the Mini-Baja competition when I was senior in high school,” says Chambers. “My dad showed me a newspaper article about it and since then I have been really eager to be involved with it because it such a challenging experience.”

“Our team has been really determined to finish the car and we are hoping to drive it before spring break,” he adds.

Sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Mini-Baja competition is judged through a variety of tests, including an off-road endurance race to determine how many laps each team can complete in four hours. Other categories are acceleration and braking, maneuverability, towing, speed, presentation, and design. The Society of Automotive Engineers sponsors the 26th annual competition.

“This year we designed the car with lighter steel so it will not be so heavy, which was the difficulty of last year’s car,” says Chambers. “Hopefully we will place higher than 44th, but even if we don’t, I am proud of the team because we have improved the program for next year’s Baja team. This project is really tough because it takes up a lot of time and you need to put your whole self into it. Fortunately, our team is really focused on pushing the limit and making the car the best we can.”

Categorized in: Academic News