UMBC Racing will host the 2018 Baja SAE Maryland competition, where engineering students test the limits of single-seat, all-terrain vehicles they have spent the year designing and building. The event, which attracts teams from across the country and the world, will be held at Budds Creek Motocross in Mechanicsville, MD, April 19 – 22.
Throughout the weekend, each team will put their vehicle to the test in a series dynamic events and an endurance race. The teams will compete not only in racing times, but also in areas like durability and cost.
“I am most excited about the chance to compete against 100 other schools from all across the world,” said Robert Sherwood ‘20, mechanical engineering, one of the UMBC Racing team captains. “It allows us to show all the other schools what UMBC is capable of achieving.”
Each year, UMBC’s team develops one vehicle, relying on lessons learned in prior competitions. Beginning in the fall, this year’s team worked together to develop a new off-road, all-terrain vehicle that is fast, structurally strong, and meets SAE International’s strict technical requirements. Their focus has been on designing and constructing it to withstand the difficulties that come with navigating rough terrain, in preparation for challenges that will test the vehicle’s performance in various situations. On one day of the competition, the team participates in a range of events that put the acceleration, suspension, and maneuverability to the test.
“The first race of each season is the most difficult because it is the first real end-to-end challenge for the team and vehicle, and will likely reveal any deficiencies in their design or fabrication,” explained Neil Rothman, professor of practice in mechanical engineering, and faculty advisor of the UMBC Racing team. The team took a fresh approach to the vehicle design this year, focusing on simplicity and reliability so we will see how that holds up over the next 4 days of competition.
Team members share that the endurance race is one of the most exciting and challenging parts of the weekend event. During the endurance race portion of the competition, the team must drive the vehicle for four hours. The team must switch drivers out at least once, and the vehicle may stop to refuel throughout the race.
Another element of the competition is pitching the vehicle to an fictitious company. Members of the team present their vehicle as a prototype. It is then inspected based on criteria including technical elements, cost, and design, keeping in mind SAE’s requirements for a design that is “reliable, maintainable, ergonomic, and…serves a recreational user market.” Beyond the design and construction of the vehicle, this part of the competition evaluates the students on their skill in delivering a sales pitch.
In 2015, the last time the UMBC team hosted the Baja SAE Maryland competition, UMBC came in fifteenth place overall. During the 2017 season, the team placed twentieth at a competition in Illinois, and thirty-third at a competition in Kansas.
For additional details about the competition, visit the SAE International website.
Banner image: A member of the UMBC Racing team working on a part for the vehicle. All photos by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.