UTPA Report: SAE International Mini Baja competition

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POSTED: Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 2:40pm

UPDATED: Friday, January 17, 2014 - 9:00am

A team of UTPA engineering students are revving up to compete for the top prize at the S-A-E International Mini Baja competition in El Paso this spring. Reporter Jennifer Berghom has that story.

It's a labor of love.

Mechanical engineering students at The University of Texas-Pan American are pursuing their passion for automobiles by building an all-terrain vehicle to vie against 100 universities worldwide at the S-A-E International Mini Baja Competition at UT El Paso this April.

Ernesto Ortega III, UTPA student, “The biggest thing that was interesting to me was I love vehicles, I like cars I'm kind of a car nut. This was the perfect way to take what I learned in the classroom and apply it to something that I want to someday dedicate my life to, which is automobile engineering.”

While the competition gives students the opportunity to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom, the team’s faculty advisor, UTPA lecturer of mechanical engineering Gregory Potter said it also puts them miles ahead of the competition in landing internships and jobs.

Gregory Potter, UTPA Lecturer of Mechanical Engineering, “It's extremely important because in today's job market these students' future employers expect them to have a certain level of engineering experience already upon graduation, in other words, the on-the-job training starts before graduation and so they need to have something on their resume to show that they have some experience with hands-on engineering so that they can even qualify for the jobs after college.”

This year, thanks to a generous donation from Toyota Motor Manufacturing, the team is making several improvements to its newest vehicle, dubbed Bouncing Betty, which pays homage to World War II fighter planes.

Mark Garza, UTPA student, “Some of the features for our car this year is improved weight, we tried pretty hard to redesign our frame in order to reduce the weight, and along with the transmission, we've built a new transmission this year that includes the reverse gear to help us out during competition whenever we get stuck. We have the opportunity to pop it in reverse and try to get out of it.”

Potter and his students added they are grateful to Toyota and other sponsors. But since their budget is smaller than many of their competitors, more help is welcome.

“The reason being is because the other schools have great funding and we need to have a certain level of funding to be able to compete to be able to buy the proper materials and the proper components for our vehicle that will give the right performance that we design into it.”

I’m Jennifer Berghom reporting for UTPA and NEWSCENTER 23.

http://students.sae.org/cds/bajasae/midwest/

To learn how you can help UTPA's Mini Baja team, contact Potter at gpotter@utpa.edu

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