2009 ‘best year yet’ for SAE auto teams
By Beau Rand
The automotive industry may not be doing as well nationally as it would like, but student car makers are flying high and going off-road at the University of Louisville.
UofL’s Mini Baja team, a group of students from the Speed School of Engineering’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) that builds competition vehicles from the ground up, placed 14th overall out of 120 teams in an international competition in Wisconsin June 11–14.
“We expected to do well,” said Ben Myser, team captain and a fourth-year mechanical engineering student from Union, Ky. “We had top-10 performances in smaller competitions. It was stiff competition, it was difficult, but we finished well.”
The Wisconsin event is the third and final major event of the year for the Baja team. Events also take place in Virginia and Alabama.
At Wisconsin, the team scored a second place finish in overall dynamic competition, which includes acceleration, maneuverability, suspension and sled pull. It placed third overall in its inaugural foray in the mud bog event, but finished 14th in the four-hour endurance race.
It was a good placing considering that the team had several major component failures due to wrecks and had to take the car off the course for repairs, Myser said.
In addition to the Mini Baja team, the UofL SAE chapter also has a Formula car.
This was the chapter’s “best year ever,” said Keith Sharp, SAE faculty adviser, noting that the Formula car placed sixth overall at Virginia, and the Mini Baja team was sixth overall at Alabama.
Success helps build interest in participation, Myser said, explaining that the teams’ past accomplishments motivated him to become involved as a freshman and to carry the mantle as Mini Baja team captain.
It also “gets our name out and shows that we are really learning and being educated,” he said.
About 40 students are in UofL’s SAE chapter, which also includes professional engineers outside of the school. The Mini Baja team has eight students, with a handful of others who help whenever possible.
With student involvement in RSOs at UofL on the rise, Myser said that the SAE teams’ successes this year, along with those of the College of Business and others, will strengthen the trend for more students to become involved in education-based student organizations.
More people will become involved in organizations if they continue to hear about their success, he said, “and the more that can come out and try it, the more will become involved for the long run.”
Regardless of the Mini Baja team’s competition achievements, the year has been special, Myser said.
Even “with the economy being bad, we have received tremendous support from our sponsors and the university,” he explained. “We’ve had a great group of guys who have put in the extra time and done a lot of work. It’s been a combination of both that has made this year so special.”
The team already has begun to work on concepts for next year’s Mini Baja vehicle and has set a goal to win a “Top Three” award for placing well at Alabama, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The Mini Baja team and SAE also are host to Midnight Mayhem, a competition held locally that pits the Cardinal car makers against other national teams. Myser said the group looks to expand the event and to host international teams in the future.
UofL Society of Automotive Engineers
Mini Baja video from Alabama
SAE team tops mini-Baja nighttime endurance race