The Kettering University Baja team’s competition season started off rocky, but the new team proved that in the end hard work and dedication pays off.
They used their competition in April as a learning opportunity and built from these experiences to improve in their second competition in June.
The Kettering University Baja team finished 79th out of 98 teams from April 14-17 at a national competition hosted by Tennessee Tech University (TTU) in Cookeville, Tennessee.
“Everyone on the team was brand new and none of us had been to competition or knew what to expect,” said Eric Stuckey, Team Captain of the Kettering University Baja team. “We actually did really well considering our experience in SAE Baja events.”
The team finished 86th in sales, 84th in cost, 60th in design, 14th in acceleration, 53rd in sled pull, and 80th in endurance resulting in a combined score of 156.98 out of 1,000 possible points.
“We started in 98th place in the endurance race and got to 79th place before our axles snapped,” Stuckey said. “We didn’t bring very many spare parts because the car wasn’t finished before competition. We finished building the car in our trailer in the competition paddocks.”
Stuckey said the team was unprepared for the presentation aspect of the competition, due to the amount of time required of the team to assemble the vehicle itself.
“We didn’t do well on the presentation component because we were rushed, late and didn’t have any paperwork or design points to show them.”
Despite these setbacks, the team was able to develop an overall strategy for future competitions. The team grasped how to articulate their design reports, pass braking and acceleration tests, and develop a formal approach to the presentation. Further strategies include testing and tuning the car before competition in order to improve upon their results.
“Going into it, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Stuckey said.
Despite the poor result, Stuckey said the team worked really well together. They put in 72 hours of labor during zero week and another 40 hours during the first week of classes and countless hours during work term to finish it before the competition.
Their efforts eventually led to a better performance as the team took 44th place out of 98 teams at an event from June 9-12 at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, New York and Hogback Hill in Palmyra, New York.
“The car was built for this competition,” Stuckey said. “At Kettering, we show up and do extremely well considering the size of our team and the resources that we have.”
The team placed 30th in cost, 64th in design, 23rd in acceleration, 35th in hill climb, 59th in maneuverability, 74th in suspension, and 33rd in endurance with an overall score of 545.66 out of 1000 possible points.
The team performed well in sales, scoring 32 out of 50 possible points and 40 out of 150 points in design.
“We told the judges about our car and they liked it,” Stuckey said. “They were surprised at how cost efficient it was.”
The team’s performance in Rochester, New York demonstrates a significant improvement over their last competition in Cookeville, Tennessee.
“The biggest thing is that we upgraded our axles for the competition,” Stuckey said. “For this competition, we made sure we were ready for everything.”
The team made the most dramatic improvements in the cost (84th to 30th place), sales (86th to 56th) and endurance (80th to 33rd place) categories of the competition. Despite their overall improved performance, the team still encountered occasional setbacks.
“Unfortunately, I had an accident in the car where we destroyed the entire front end suspension,” Stuckey said. “I went on a jump and landed on the frame instead of the suspension. That was a stress inducer.”
They had to rebuild the entire front end of the car a couple days before competition which affected their performance in the dynamic events.
Now, Stuckey and his team plan on focusing on revamping the car to perform even better at future competitions.
“Going further into the summer, we are working on a new gearbox design to get more efficiency out of the motor, a new suspension to handle different terrains and tracks, and a new seat and foot rest to improve the ergonomics of the vehicle.”
This will take time, but for Stuckey, the effort put into modifying the car pays off at competition.
“It’s a really good feeling going along the last lap and waving your hands in the air as you cross the checkered flag,” Stuckey said. “It helps show the younger students on the team what a difference hard work makes.”