College SAE Baja team takes second at Midnight Mayhem

Grove City College’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) club is still washing the Kentucky mud off their cars after taking second place Saturday in the Midnight Mayhem Baja SAE event.

The College’s SAE chapter entered two cars in the event hosted by the University of Louisville’s SAE Baja Team last weekend. Grove City College engineering students design, build, maintain and race the cars, which are stripped-down, utilitarian vehicles similar to dune buggies, but built to withstand harsh elements and rough terrain.

Dr. Vern Ulrich, professor of mechanical engineering and SAE advisor, said that Midnight Mayhem has become “huge” within the SAE Baja community, despite being an off-season, unofficial race. When the College began sending a team to the race in the fall of 2010 there were about 30 cars in the competition. This year, there were more than 100 cars racing through “incredibly sticky and heavy” mud that cut the event short, he said.

“Saturday night in Louisville was quite a night,” Ulrich said. “Many teams had a lot of difficulty with the conditions. We brought back a lot of Kentucky topsoil.”

Baja SAE is a design competition run by the Society of Automotive Engineers. All cars are built around a standard 10hp Briggs & Stratton engine. Students from colleges and universities around the world participate in the competitions.

“Make no mistake,” Ulrich said. “This is an engineering competition. Everyone wants to drive and we do need a couple of really good drivers, but the race is won and lost on the engineering drawing board.”

Unlike other Baja SAE events, Midnight Mayhem focuses solely on the racing aspect of the competition. There are a few small dynamic events to test specific aspects each vehicle’s performance and a four hour, wheel-to-wheel endurance race – with a twist: darkness. It is the only Baja SAE event held on a lit track at night.

Grove City College engineering students benefit from the competition in a number of ways. They learn about automotive engineering, mechanical design, teamwork and sportsmanship as they build and race their cars and they can make critical connections for their post-graduate lives through events like Midnight Mayhem.

“In the last eight years, more than dozen GCC students have accepted jobs with Honda, Toyota, Ford, Cummins, GE Transportation, Caterpillar and others. Many of these companies actively recruit at SAE events,” Ulrich said. “Honda recruiters tell us that 70 percent of the engineers they hire have been on a Baja team. If you want to hire car enthusiasts to come and work for you where should you go? Answer: Where the car enthusiasts hang out – at the races.”

For more about the Department of Mechanical Engineering and its ABET-accredited programs:

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College SAE Baja team takes second at Midnight Mayhem

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