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Take 5: Get to know Northeastern’s Baja SAE team

Northeastern’s chapter of Baja SAE recently completed another successful season, finishing 8th overall in the third and final competition of the year held in Illinois earlier this month.

Baja SAE is an intercollegiate design and motorsport competition run by the Society of Automotive Engineers, in which engineering students design, display, and race vehicles. Here, former team captain Matt Nussbaum, E’14, and incoming captain Dalton Colen, E’16, share five facts about the team and its vehicle.

1. Baja is one of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ longest-running competitions and the only SAE competition in which Northeastern’s team competes. Teams design cars that can handle a rock crawl, an acceleration test, and a four-hour endurance race. These competitions also include an expo where teams display their vehicles and meet industry experts to discuss the cars’ designs and their potential for becoming a startup venture.

2. Northeastern’s ’14 car, named for the year it raced, can reach speeds up to 31 miles per hour. Prior to this year’s competitions the team redesigned the vehicle in hopes of making it lighter yet still be able to handle the endurance race. Students were able to trim the car’s weight from 450 pounds to about 400 pounds by making changes to the car’s frame, suspension, and steering.

3. Cars designed by Northeastern students have a reputation for performing well in the endurance race. In three endurance races this year, Northeastern finished 14th, 24th, and fifth, respectively. Typically, only about half of the entrants don’t make it past the first two laps.

4. Northeastern’s car has two very unique features, according to Colen. The car’s handlebar steering, instead of a regular steering wheel, allows drivers to engage their chest and arm muscles more in the demanding off-road situations rather than just their wrists. The vehicle’s six-speed manual transmission also makes for a more driver-involved experience.

5. Being part of the Baja team has not only allowed students a chance to compete and develop their engineering skills, but the skills and experience gained through these opportunities have also helped students secure co-ops at companies such as Bose, Instron, Qinetiq, Keurig, Fikst, and Boston Dynamics, Colen said. Students interested in joining the team for the upcoming 2014-15 academic year should visit the team’s website.