While most NIU students enjoyed the first week of summer, members of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology Mini Baja Team spent their weekend in competition.
At stake: a regional title – and a chance to prove to the rest of North America that NIU has what it takes.
Each year, the Mini Baja Team designs and creates a dune buggy-type vehicle each year and competes in events that measure durability, mobility and endurance. At least 30 students collaborated on this project, bringing a variety of different educational backgrounds together.
These exceptionally dedicated engineering students promote careers and network with other companies while utilizing skill sets from other NIU colleges.
The object of the North American BAJA SAE competition is to provide collegiate BAJA team members with a challenging project that involves the planning and manufacturing tasks found when introducing a new product to the consumer industrial market. Students must function as a team to not only design, build, test and race a vehicle within the limits of the rules, but also promote their product and develop a sales plan to be judged by a fictitious firm.
This competition allows students to learn communication, engineering and leadership skills that cannot be acquired in the classroom.
“It was a great atmosphere, pretty competitive, but it was also a really cool camaraderie between teams,” said Matt Kucmierz, vice president of NIU Mini Baja. “We walked around to other trailers and talked with other teams who gave us some tips to improve our vehicle, and we were able to give them parts to help them out as well.”
Teams were judged on static and dynamic events that determined the fate of their hard work.
The static events consisted of a sales and design presentation as well as technical inspection of the car, while the dynamic events included trails testing the maneuverability, hill-climb, acceleration and rock-crawl of the vehicle.
“We came into the competition with a much improved static event presentation and did a lot better in the dynamic events than last year. We took last years design and pretty much scrapped it, and started from a brand new frame and new lighter materials,” NIU Mini Baja President Adam Krejci said.
All the work they put into the project this past year cost them about 30 hours a week, and team members report that they couldn’t be more ecstatic about returning back to the competition next year with a new competitive edge.
“We figured out what we needed to improve after this weekend and we came up with solutions on the car ride home,” NIU Mini Baja member Mike Bain.
The Mini Baja team traveled Monday, May 13, to Bellingham, Wash., and returned Monday, May 20.
Team sponsors include Autometer, Rockglen OHV, HRP World, SJTI and SAE Rockford Beloit. Team members also raise funds so that all the building, testing and racing is possible.