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WVU Tech Students Head West for SAE Baja Competition

This week, a group of West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) students will make an 850-mile trip to Pittsburg, Kansas to participate in the 2014 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja series hosted at Pittsburg State University, May 22–25.

The WVU Tech SAE team and their Baja racing buggy will compete against more than 1,000 students in dynamic events such as a sled pull, suspension/traction course and a four-hour endurance race.

The team started work in January, installing a brand new transmission, mounting a suspension system, designing and cutting panes for the buggy’s body and fine-tuning the vehicle for its various performance tests.

“We’ve put a lot of work into the build, spent a lot of late nights working on the buggy. We’re learning a lot about welding, machining and design,” said WVU Tech SAE member, Jason Browning.

The WVU Tech buggy is equipped with a 10-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine, weighs in at around 500 pounds and can reach a top speed of 25 mph. Built on the frame from last year’s competition, the buggy’s motor is the same model Briggs & Stratton donates to each team in the competition.

“SAE students build the buggy from top to bottom with a focus on the design process. The project is both an opportunity to practice the skills students are learning in the classroom and a chance to work on areas where they’re weakest,” said Dr. Winnie Fu, WVU Tech Assistant Professor of Engineering Technology.

The SAE Baja series consists of three competitions in April, May and June. Each competition features 100 schools and buggies undergo a rigorous technical inspection before they are permitted to compete. Teams also provide a cost report, design report and sales presentation where students pitch their project to fictional clients.

This year’s WVU Tech SAE sponsors include spark plug manufacturer NGK, Hidden Trails Motorsports, Jarvis Hardware, March Westin, CM&I Products, the Leonard C. Nelson College of Engineering at WVU Tech, the WVU Tech Student Government Association and a few dedicated parents.

“Our sponsors directly support the development of these future engineers,” said Dr. Fu. “SAE students are sought out by employers and often find work right out of school because of their technical and design abilities and the practical experience they get from these competitions.”

The SAE is always looking for new support. Interested sponsors can contact Dr. Fu at

For more photos of the Baja buggy, visit WVU Tech on Flickr.