Engineering students from across the United States, Mexico and even Poland will present technical reports, display and race their handmade all-terrain vehicles May 8-10 at Brigham Young University.
The annual "Mini-Baja West 2003," sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, brings budding automotive engineers together to subject their designs to strict judging standards and their vehicles to grueling endurance and performance tests. With twice as many top-five finishes as its closest rival since it began participating five years ago, the BYU team is shooting to reclaim the championship it won in 2000.
BYU mechanical engineering professor Robert Todd is this year's Mini-Baja West chief organizer.
"The Society of Automotive Engineers' Mini-Baja Competition is probably the most prestigious and realistic collegiate engineering design competition of its kind in the world," said Todd, who spent 10 years as a manager and director at GM and Michelin and 20 years in academics. "Engineering students get to use all of their analysis, design, manufacturing, economic, people and team skills in developing an exciting product and then test the application of their skills in a very realistic way."
The public is invited to view the vehicles, many of which look like small dune buggies, on BYU's Provo campus Thursday, May 8 (see below for specific times and locations). Spectators are welcome at the popular performance tests, like a maneuverability course and a rock-crawling challenge, on Friday, May 9, and the competition's climax, an endurance race on Saturday, May 10. Those events will take place in a gravel pit in Provo Canyon. Spectators must park at the Canyon River Office Building 727 N. 1550 East, Orem, and take a free shuttle to the site.
Utahns can cheer their home teams, with two competing squads each from BYU, the University of Utah and Utah State University. Other universities participating include North Carolina State, Michigan, Instituto Tecnologico De Chihuahua, and Washington State.
"BYU has always done well in this competition, finishing in the top three in four of the five years we have participated," said Michael J. Whiting, a BYU graduate mechanical engineering student and assistant organizer of the event. "This indicates the ability of the engineering students here at BYU and SAE wants to bring more students into this type of environment."
The student engineering teams are charged with producing a single-seat, off-road vehicle prototype for evaluation and marketing. They strive to build a vehicle that negotiates rough terrain, is safe, fun to drive, easily maintained and easily transported. The engineers' target audience is a weekend nonprofessional off-road enthusiast who is looking for a vehicle under $3000.
All the cars in the competition use a 10-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine so the design of the cars' drive trains, frames and suspension systems is what sets teams' cars apart. One BYU team decided to design and install a reverse gear on its ATV, while the other decided to make a lighter and perhaps sturdier vehicle by leaving out a reverse gear.
In addition to earning points based on performance, the teams are judged on the ingenuity and practicality of their designs, their attention to cost and manufacturing requirements, and their ability to "sell" their design to judges.
Winners will be announced at a banquet Saturday, May 10 that begins at 5 p.m.
Additional sponsors of Mini-Baja West 2003 are Honda, Polaris, Raytheon, Briggs & Stratton and MSC Software.
Mini-Baja West Times and Places
Thursday, May 8
Mini-Baja Vehicle Display, Deseret Towers Field
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Parking in Marriott Center lot
Friday, May 9
Dynamic Events: Gravel Pit
Parking at Canyon River Office Building only, 727 N 1550 E, Orem, near the mouth of Provo Canyon
9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturday, May 10
Endurance Race: Gravel Pit
Parking at Canyon River Office Building only
10 a.m.-2 p.m.