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UW-Madison's mini-baja team takes second in national competition

Mini-Baja team 2002

UW-Madison entered both last year's design #22 and a new vehicle #1 in the SAE competition. (large image)

Mini-Baja team 2002

Battleworn and caked with mud, min-baja #1 waits for a washing in the shop. (large image)

Rain and mud made for one of the most challenging courses ever at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) West Mini-Baja competition at Logan, Utah. UW-Madison took second place overall, scoring 893.85 points. First-place went to the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a score of 898.15 points.

UW-Madison mini-baja faculty advisor Glenn Bower says contestants faced temperatures in the 40's, 25 mile-per-hour winds, sections of mud 12 inches deep and pools of water 18 inches deep on the two-and-a-quarter-mile endurance course.

"The mud was amazing," says team leader and mechanical engineering senior Louie Brady. "For four hours we scrambled around in the mud. A good percentage of the cars didn't even make it a full lap. 108 cars entered. It was rough. It was a super-rough course. Our 2000 car rolled five times during the race and our new car, our 2001, rolled once. I'd say just about every car out there rolled at least once and by the end of the race, only 50 percent of the cars that entered were still running. It was just so muddy."

Mini Baja is a design competition that challenges engineering students to work as a team in the designing, building and testing of an off-road vehicle capable of negotiating rough terrain. The first day of competition includes judging for cost, sales presentation, engineering design and safety. Day two requires the team to compete in maneuverability, acceleration and hill climb. The final day includes the grueling four-hour endurance race. Teams are scored on the number of laps completed in that time period.

UW-Madison's 2001 vehicle completed 24 laps on the endurance course. The team's 2000 mini-baja vehicle also performed well in the competition placing seventh overall.