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UCLA Racing’s Baja SAE Concludes Season with Top 10 Finishes

UCLA places 9th in Dynamic Events and 6th in Static Events at Oregon Regional

Fourth-year mechanical engineering student Anthony Tyson drives the maneuverability course. UCLA Racing placed 12th in this event.

Baja SAE is an international collegiate design competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The contest challenges each team to function as a small manufacturing firm whose task is to design, fabricate, market, and race an off-road vehicle prototype that is evaluated from a variety of manufacturing angles. Each year various SAE sections host a West, Midwest, and East competition in which approximately 100 teams from across the nation and around the world bring their vehicles to undergo rigorous testing.

UCLA’s off-road racing team recently returned from the western region competition in Oregon with top accolades in the Dynamic and Static events among 79 teams. The 2011-2012 team is led by 4th Mechanical Engineers Anthony Gambardella and Anthony Tyson–this year was UCLA’s 14th year competing in Baja.

The main design goal of this year was to lighten the car. The 2012 vehicle includes more carbon fiber composite than any preceding design, leading to a faster, more maneuverable car. Additionally, this year’s design incorporates a lockable open differential–a notable improvement over last year’s gearbox. These advancements led to a 7th place finish after the first day of racing, and a 9th place finish in the dynamic events overall. Unfortunately, due to a gearbox malfunction, this year’s car was only able to complete 2 hours of the 4-hour-long endurance race, which landed UCLA Racing in the 31st spot overall. The team has already begun redesigning to ensure next year’s car will avoid the same fate. Additionally, they hope to make next year’s car even faster by optimizing existing components to reduce weight.

While the competition is centered around the design and manufacturing of a vehicle, teams also learn the business aspects of the engineering world. In addition to the dynamic events, teams are judged on design and sales presentations. UCLA Racing finished 6th in this category.

UCLA Racing provides educational, real-world, and team-oriented experience for students by challenging them to design, build, and race an off-road vehicle. Every aspect of the car is designed and manufactured by the students. In addition to manual machining, students utilize other processes such as CNC milling, Abrasive Waterjet Cutting, Wire EDM, carbon fiber composite processes, and welding.  The UCLA racing team operates as a small business and is open to university students from all backgrounds and majors, including students studying math, computer science, business, communications, and all engineering fields such as mechanical, aerospace, material science, electrical and software engineering. New team members are trained during the fall quarter, and mentorship is provided throughout the course of the year. UCLA Racing graduates have a distinct advantage over other graduates in that they have hands-on experience, a background in management, and a high level of initiative, drive, and ability.

This year, UCLA Racing is graduating much of its team. Some will be pursuing graduate degrees, while others have already secured positions in the engineering industry. Many current members will be interning this summer, where they will gain further engineering experience to impart on new members. For a more in-depth look at Baja’s alumni, click here.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the gracious backing of Baja’s partners. First and foremost, UCLA Racing is part of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department–the team would not exist without the department’s continued support. This year, UCLA Racing was fortunate enough to have almost 30 sponsors, including A&H Wire EDM, Associated Gear, Dukes Rollcages and Custom Fab, Edwards Air Force Research Laboratory, Joseph Beggs Foundation for Kinematics, Kaiser Aluminum, Lockheed Martin, R.M. Body Shop, Valley Metal Treating, and many more. Baja’s successes are due to their support.

For more on the 2011-2012 UCLA Racing Baja SAE season, click here.

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