June 24, 2019

Engineering off-road team sets race record

Schulich Baja SAE Team lands first-ever top 10 finish at key U.S. competition

Author

Michael Platt, Schulich School of Engineering

The Schulich Baja SAE Team placed fifth in the endurance event and seventh in the design event against 100 teams from around the world.

The Schulich Baja SAE Team placed fifth in the endurance event and seventh in the design event.

Schulich Baja SAE Team

Mud, sweat and gears.

For engineering students who join UCalgary’s off-road racing team, hard work is a guarantee — and for the first time in nearly 30 years of competition, that effort has paid off in joining the ranks of the world’s top 10 university teams.

The Schulich School of Engineering’s Baja SAE Team earned a record-setting eighth place at a Baja SAE International Collegiate Design Series Competition in Rochester, New York, placing fifth in the endurance event and seventh in the design event against 100 teams from around the world.

Best result since team's inception

It’s the best result since the team’s inception in the early 1990s, as a place for engineering students to test their skills and teamwork by designing and building a single-seat off-road vehicle to compete in a race inspired by the Baja 1000.

The team hopes the 2019 trophy is the first of many. “As far as plans for next year, the goal is just to build on our success in Rochester,” says Luke Winquist, the team’s suspension lead.

“We’ve already proven to ourselves and everyone else that we can compete as a top 10 team. So, let’s keep our foot on the gas and bring back more than one award next year.”

Hill climbs and high aspirations

At the competition, vehicles and aspiring engineers alike are put to the test in sales pitches, design presentations, dynamic events like manoeuvrability, acceleration, hill climb and rock crawl, all before an arduous four-hour endurance race. 

This year, the team set the bar even higher by attending two competitions — one in Gorman, California and the one in New York.

“In previous years, we’ve only ever attended one competition and, usually on the trip home, everyone is full of ideas on how to improve and design a better vehicle and perform better in the race,” explains Emily Dawson, team captain. “This year, having the opportunity to attend two competitions allowed us to iterate on our designs and strategies in between events, which ultimately enabled us to finally crack the top 10.” 

The team hopes their success this year is the first of many.

The team hopes their success this year is the first of many.

Schulich Baja SAE Team

Makerspace meant students could build components themselves

As well as the Schulich School of Engineering and the Schulich Student Activity Fund, the Baja team credits the engineering faculty’s new Maker Multiplex with much of their design success, by providing the team a well-equipped makerspace to quickly build and test components themselves.

“Since the Maker Multiplex opened, our team members have machined over 200 parts, and every area of the vehicle and team has benefited from having that capability,” says Scott Webber, chassis lead.

Zach Frena, a steering designer for the team, had similar praise for the bustling maker facility. “Having the opportunity to allow students to machine their own components has saved us both money and time. These students also become better engineers through the process of designing for manufacture and developing greater hands-on skills,” says Frena. 

One for the memory books

For those graduating, the whole team experience has been one exhilarating ride. “Student teams are what complete your degree — putting knowledge into practical application,” says Bryan Svendsen, a drivetrain designer.

If you would like to support the team in their future endeavours, contact incoming team captain Luke Winquist at lucas.winquist@ucalgary.ca. To learn more about the competition, check out the event website