Building a Baja Buggy

May 5, 2016

After an almost two-year effort, members of Wentworth’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) have a near-completed Baja buggy on their hands.

Baja cars are small, off-road vehicles meant to withstand the harshest effects of rough terrain. Since 2014, SAE students have taken to the Kingman projects lab to construct a car they hope to enter into a June 9 competition in Rochester, N.Y.

“It’s definitely going to get a beating,” says David Andrews, BSME ’16, president of Wentworth SAE. “We expect it to roll over a few times.”

The cars are designed and built by student teams from all over the world for competitions run by the SAE and high-profile sponsors such as Honda and Polaris. All cars are constructed with a 20 single-cylinder engine with a power output of approximately 10 brake horsepower (BHP).

Cars are tested over several days, cumulating with a four-hour endurance race.

Although SAE competitions take place each year, Wentworth’s SAE club has not competed in this event since 2006.

It’s not unusual for club members to spend hours each day on the car, sometimes working into the night on a design. Current treasurer Jake Vitaliano, BSME ‘17, just finished his co-op with Rogers Foam Corporation in Somervile, Mass., but has returned to Wentworth exclusively to work on the car.

All this work makes the possibility of competing more tantalizing.

Though Andrews believes the team will compete in June, they are still waiting for official word. Thus far, the group has made all its qualifying checkpoints and has steadily moved up the wait list.

Driving the car—which is equipped with a rolling cage and a fire extinguisher—holds equal appeal to most club members.

Both Connors and lab technician Jamie O’Hare said they would feel safe driving the students’ car. “But I always like jumping into anything,” says O’Hare, “I don’t see any danger, except if they bump into things.”

If all goes according to plan, Wentworth SAE will be taking vehicle to the international SAE competition in June, where it will be tested by one of its makers on an off-road driving course.

But the possibility of not competing is “not at all disappointing,” says Andrews. “We’re getting to build a Baja car! You get to see all your work become something real.”

-Zoe Gregoric


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