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Racing to the top: CMU Baja car is best in Michigan and No. 2 in the country

All three Team Chippewa Performance cars ranked in Top 25 at Louisville SAE invitational


​Central Michigan University’s Society of Automotive Engineers Baja student team is putting its stamp on national collegiate racing.

Team Chippewa Performance ranked higher than every other Michigan university at the Louisville SAE Midnight Mayhem invitational recently in Bedford, Kentucky. It also placed second in the country, bested only by the Rochester Institute of Technology.

“It’s clear that our students are making CMU a name to be known and respected on a national level,” said Ben Ritter, engineering technology instructor and SAE Baja club adviser.

These events give the team opportunities to size up the competition so that they can build the best Baja car possible for the official national design competitions next spring.

All three CMU Baja cars entered in the Louisville invitational ranked in the Top 25 — car No. 73 placed second, No. 65 placed ninth and No. 34 placed 23rd.

Students function as a team to design, build, test, promote and race a small, one-person, off-road vehicle that must survive hours of driving over and through rocks, ditches, mud, obstacles and sometimes water.

A 10-horsepower Intek Model 20 engine donated by Briggs & Stratton Corp. powers all vehicles. Use of the same engine by all the teams creates a more challenging engineering design test.

“This is the 10th year the CMU team is competing,” Ritter said. “The whole experience is a great opportunity for students to exercise their leadership skills and put theory learned from class into practice, which is why these competitions are so highly respected in the industry.”

Industrial technology management and manufacturing major Walter Robertson of Virginia Beach, Virginia said the team is responsible for engineering, designing and building the car from the ground up.

“While many of us have technical work experience outside the classroom, nothing on campus is as comprehensive in simulating the manufacturing process as our SAE Baja program,” Robertson said.

Team Chippewa Performance will compete against more than 100 schools at the 2015 Baja SAE Collegiate Design Series competitions from April 9 through 12 in Auburn, Alabama; May 7 through 10 in Baltimore, Maryland; and May 27 through 30 in Portland, Oregon. The team’s Baja vehicle will be judged equally on production, engineering, design and racing.

The competitions simulate real-world engineering design projects and related challenges, providing SAE student members the opportunity to experience the planning and manufacturing tasks encountered when introducing a new product to the consumer industrial market.

The team members will now spend the next few months building a new off-road vehicle for entry in the 2015 SAE Baja Collegiate Design Series competitions.

Click here to watch a video of the 2014 SAE Baja team members as they construct and race car No. 34, the vehicle that placed No. 23 overall at the Louisville SAE Midnight Mayhem invitational.​

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