Racing to the Finish Line

Student team embarks on inaugural competition at automotive challenge Baja SAE

Racing to the Finish line

Since 1976, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has hosted the Baja SAE design competition series for university students, both in the United States and internationally, to test their designing, engineering and business skills. The challenge: build an off-road vehicle prototype that can traverse and withstand rugged terrain while gaining first-hand experience into the manufacturing and financial processes needed to execute successful engineering design projects.

The all-terrain vehicle designed and built by NYU Tandon Motorsports — the newly formed team of undergraduate students — will make its racing debut at the prestigious Baja SAE Southern California competition this Sunday, April 30 in Gorman, California. Founded last summer by Austin Hunt, the team’s captain and mechanical engineering student, NYU Tandon Motorsports’ primary goal this year was to represent NYU Tandon at their first competition at Baja SAE. As a newcomer to the over 100 universities exhibiting their vehicles this weekend, the team had the unique advantage of creating an innovative design without the influence of previous competitions and models.

Team members apply the final touches to their all-terrain vehicle

Team members apply the final touches to their all-terrain vehicle

Marcus Cheung, director of external and internal media and a sophomore in mechanical engineering and integrated digital media, noted the obstacles they faced throughout the process and their exploratory approach to the Baja SAE challenge. “In the beginning, many of us didn’t know that much about cars,” Cheung said. “We basically had to figure everything out for ourselves.”

The NYU Tandon Motorsports team focused initially on researching and experimenting with models and calculations, learning how to weld steel for the vehicle’s frame, and testing a variety of materials before selecting the strongest, safest, and most economical design. Kevin Zhao, a member of the team’s suspension division, highlighted a few key features of the car, such as the easily adjustable front control arms that can be customized to any driver (junior Rachel Stolzman will take the helm this weekend), a limited-slip differential for better traction on the muddy, dirt track, and a larger frame that allows for more clearance and sports NYU Tandon’s characteristic purple.

With the vehicle already shipped to California, and 10 team members in tow, Cheung expressed the thrill of seeing the final product after their months-long journey from novice automobile enthusiasts to experienced engineers. “After welding the frame, I realized that this used to be a pile of tubes and I’m standing in a car now. During the build, you keep moving forward and you don’t realize how far you’ve come.”

On April 27, NYU Tandon Motorsports will pitch their vehicle prototype to a panel of judges playing the role of a fictional investor and engineering firm to demonstrate their design’s marketability and manufacturability, as well as their business acumen — a key component to their overall score within the competition. After the Baja SAE SoCal race this Sunday, NYU Tandon Motorsports will take to the road again to display their vehicle at the Maker Faire in San Francisco on May 19-21, and aims to branch out into other automotive and design-based competitions and challenges in the future.

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018