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Running Mocs enter mini Baja event

Baha For the first time ever, a team of 20 UTC Engineering students will enter the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) mini Baja MidWest, May 24-28 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The national mini-Baja competition circuit, sponsored by SAE and Briggs & Stratton, consists of three regional competitions that simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges. Engineering students are tasked to design and build an off-road vehicle that will endure the severe punishment of rough terrain. Briggs & Stratton have provided the UTC team and entrants from 140 other schools with a free motor.

Since all team entries have the same motor, vehicle design is critical. The Running Mocs anticipate their vehicle will reach speeds of up to 30 m.p.h.

“Our team members understand how to weld parts, and they know their way around a machine shop,” said Corry Johnson, one of two student project managers. “Most of us not only know how to run a lathe, but we could tear it down and rebuild it.”

Eleven of the Running Mocs teammates are set to graduate from the University with engineering degrees on May 6, providing a team with experience. Team members decided to install rear-wheel drive and a two-speed transmission, which Johnson feels will stand up well in a four-hour endurance race.

“We will use different student drivers for the Hill Climb, Chain Pull which shows the strength of the vehicle as it tows items, the Mud Bog and the Endurance Race,” Johnson said. “In the Mud Bog, we will use low gear to change the torque settings.”

Last year, Johnson joined Mark Gilbert, his co-project manager and several other team members to observe the mini-Baja in Ohio. Gilbert enjoyed the experience, and he learned a lot.

“These events are run by a community of engineers. Everyone is helpful, and all the teams are willing to discuss what works and what does not,” Gilbert said. “The SAE alumni come in from all over the world to volunteer. This is a real learning experience.”

Gilbert is especially proud that not all the students were mechanical engineers. “There were nine mechanicals, one electrical, one industrial and one chemical,” he said. “Students you would not expect to be mechanically minded gave some of the best ideas for the car. We’ve all pulled together for this project.’

Although the project is a lot of fun for the students, faculty adviser Dr. Ron Goulet says the students gain valuable skills and experience.

"The students who are participating in this project are gaining experience that they can take to an employer and be of instant benefit," said Goulet.

The team had to pull together in the face of daunting time constraints. The students knew that some teams take two semesters to work on one part for their vehicle; the Running Mocs started their design in fall, 2005, and then did all the fabrication this semester.

“We give a lot of credit to our faculty advisor, Dr. Ron Goulet. He supported us, offered his lab to build the car, and helped us with the red tape to push this project along,” Gilbert said.

More than $11,000 has been raised for the event, not including the sweat equity the team has invested. Corporate sponsors include UTC Engineering and Computer Science Department, ASME Chattanooga Chapter, Shaw, Miller Industries, Inc., Master Machine, Inc. Strauss Company, Truck N’ Trailer USA. Other supporters are Metro Boiler Tube Company, Fastenal, Powersports Unlimited, and Hudlow Axle Company.

The Running Mocs team includes Eric Shrader, Corry Johnson, Mark Gilbert, Jeremy Goodman, Chad Monroe, Kim Sissom, Brad Henley, John Horton, Graham Hines, Mike Tracey, Ben Taylor, Dustin Fraley, Michael Hickey, and Justin Littlell.

June 21, 2006

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