May 24, 2017
John Finch, a junior mechanical engineering student from Houston, Texas, is chief engineer for Baylor Baja this year. Baja is a team-based, extracurricular project in which students learn to build an off-road car, take it to competition, defend their design, and test it on a course designed by automotive engineers.
While students don’t receive course credit for participating in Baja, according to Finch, the experience is invaluable.
“I think being in Baja has greatly assisted in my preparation for the real workplace because I’m managing all these very real things,” Finch said. “We’re given a budget and we have to raise our own funds, so we’re talking to sponsors and dealing with actual businesses.”
Finch joined Baylor Baja as a freshman. He said he was intimidated by the thought of being on the team because he had never worked on cars before, let alone built one. Though he felt he didn’t know much, the team continued to invite him to meetings.
“I didn’t know how to do anything, so I would just watch and whenever we were out working, I would sweep and just pay attention to what was happening,” Finch said. “Later that year, I had learned enough to where I started getting my hands on stuff. I was actually a valuable member and it just sort of took me. Now I’m a team lead and chief engineer.”
Finch and six of his teammates are headed to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja Collegiate Competition in Pittsburgh, Kansas, today. While the competition spans four days, the actual driving events take place on Saturday and Sunday, May 27-28.
Throughout the competition, the team will complete a formal sales presentation, a technical inspection, present and defend the design of the car, and then the real fun begins! The team will compete in four dynamic events: acceleration, maneuverability, suspension and tractor pull. The competition concludes with the four-hour endurance event on the final day.
Dr. Lesley Wright, associate professor of mechanical engineering and faculty lead of the Baja team, said she firmly believes this is a great learning experience for the students.
“I am extremely proud of what these students have accomplished this year,” Wright said. “We are also thankful to our Baja Alumni, L3, Caterpillar, GoEngineer, Manitou, SpaceX, and T-Squared Manufacturing for coming to campus to review the design of the car, offer suggestions to improve both the design and the presentation, and for encouraging the students toward competition.”
To follow the competition, visit the following websites.
Real-time event scoring
(we’re car #91)
Live Video Streaming of Driving Events
You can also follow the Baylor Baja team on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.