Alabama Dishes Up Plenty Of Rain, Mud For BAJA SAE Event

Bajablog2DSC_8534 - Version 2.jpg S&T’s 2011 student design team competition season kicked off yesterday when two Miner teams, Baja SAE and the Advanced Aero Vehicle Group (AAVG) rocket teams headed to separate Alabama events. More on AAVG later, it was startling to hear today’s car radio announcing a long list of Birmingham AL-area mid-day school closings. No power outage or blizzard this, but an expected tornado outbreak. Strange.
While the twisters were popping out some 60 miles south, the Baja competition site NE of Jasper AL was just drenched! The parking lots were a patchwork of rivers, participants were miserable, dry shoes were rare, and most of the 50+ university teams were crammed in two huge tents for design presentations and driver egress scoring. Oh, did we mention the lightning?? The tents were supported by tall metal poles, and anyone standing next to the massive supports seemed more than a little nervous. Hmmm, they must have been EE majors.
By mid-day the Miners had completed their design presentation and cleared the engine test. Tomorrow (Saturday) includes tech inspection, acceleration, tilt, suspension and maneuverability. Did we mention maneuverability covers both land and water steering? Yep, these cars must be amphibious! Some have buoyancy chambers designed into the cars, while some water wings seem an afterthought. One car has so much floatation it looks like a scaled-down CAT D8 ‘dozer.
Another major requirement is emergency egress, where strapped-in drivers must be completely clear of the car in only five seconds.
In the interest of safety race officials ordered all teams out of the area before the evening storms struck, and so far it seems that everything and everyone is OK.
Let’s revisit the ejection seat egress issue for a moment. The issue is safety; there is a fire risk should two cars collide, so fast escape is essential. This part is not engineering so you don’t earn extra points for style. Just get out, and FAST!
This event is staffed by industry professionals who want to network with their future industry peers, while budding engineers try to put their best, uh, face, forward.
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One student’s parents would be so (sniff!) proud!