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Wheeling around the competition

Northeastern’s Baja SAE team, which builds and races a custom-designed all-terrain vehicle, made quite an impression at a recent national competition in Alabama.

A group of mechanical engineering students who designed, built and raced an all-terrain vehicle for Northeastern’s chapter of Baja SAE placed fourth overall out of approximately 100 teams at a national competition held last week at Auburn University. The motorsports team, which also placed second in the competition’s endurance race, has never had a more impressive showing.

Baja SAE is an intercollegiate design competition run by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

“We put a lot of pride into this,” said junior Michael Minerbi. “We’re really honored to carry on the winning legacy of the Northeastern Baja team and set a new standard for future teams to look up to.”

The Northeastern team designed and fabricated nearly every aspect of the vehicle, except for a few components such as the brakes, tires and shocks. The 450-pound, four-by-four off-road buggy, was constructed to withstand the rigors of the grueling four-hour endurance race, which is considered the heart of the overall competition.

Junior Andy Benn, the club’s co-captain, discussed the experience from Idaho. He and his teammates are currently traveling by van to Oregon State University for the second of three competitions, the last of which will be held in June at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“What we’ve learned from our experience is to plan for the unexpected,” he said, adding that the club’s vast knowledge of their vehicle comes in handy when performing maintenance on campus or in the thick of a tight race.

The North­eastern Baja SAE team, with their all- terrain vehicle at Auburn University.

The Northeastern Baja SAE club was started in 1985 and has earned 19 top-10 finishes in national competitions since 1999.

The club, team members say, simulates the real-world engineering, design, business and marketing challenges of bringing a vehicle to mass market.

Benn attributed the club’s success in part to the support from Northeastern alumni who were part of the Baja team and remain connected many years later.

“This team is really an extension of practical education and real-world experience we receive at Northeastern, and it’s another way we can continue learning outside the classroom,” he said.