The Baja Team at Missouri University of Science and Technology has spent the past year designing and constructing a dune buggy meant to withstand mud bogs, water hazards and boulders, as well as a four-hour endurance race.
The 2010 S&T team is planning to enter two competitions for university students sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, one April 8-11 in Greenville, S.C., and another May 19-22 in Bellingham, Wash. The vehicles will be judged on endurance, traction, towing ability, acceleration, maneuverability, cost and maintenance.
The endurance race is the grand finale in a competition. “Almost immediately after the flag drops, cars ram one another, cars flip, and cars get stuck,” says S&T team member Carl Lacey. “The track is brutal, with rock gardens and sand pits, river crossings and downed trees – usually only 50 percent of the competitors complete the race.”
This year’s vehicle has significant advantages over previous S&T cars. The projected weight is roughly 425 pounds, compared to 503 pounds for last year’s vehicle. The weight was shaved off by the incorporation of a Kevlar-reinforced fiberglass seat, a lightweight frame, and the use of a new in-house transaxle.
Casey Boyer, senior drivetrain leader for the team, developed the transaxle, which houses all chains, belts, gears and the differential in a single aluminum unit. These components had been outsourced from ATVs in years past.
The team also included a hand-actuated clutch for the first time, as opposed to the pedal-style used previously. This allows the driver to shift with one hand and provides more room in the cockpit.
During the planning and construction process, students are developing skills that they will carry into their future careers. “It’s not just the obvious skills like welding and running lathes and mills,” says Lacey, “but important people skills and the development of familiarity with processes of industry.”