Podcast: Baja SAE looks forward to competition

Baja team co-captains, Max Lamantia and Criag Bowen, discuss the road to hosting the Baja Society of Automotive Engineers competition at the Tennessee Tech campus next year.

GREG TAYLOR: So, what is your name for the record?

MAX LAMANTIA: I'm Max Lamantia, I'm one of the two co-captains.

CRAIG BOWEN: I'm Craig Bowen, I'm the other co-captain.

TAYLOR: Perfect. Uh, so we're here today just to discuss the event you got coming up in six months. So, do you just want to briefly kind of describe what the event is you got, and what's going to be happening?

BOWEN: Well, I think I said in the, uh, last interview we had, uh, we're not exactly just a racing team, we're a student design competition. So, a lot goes into these races besides just us driving around in cars. We have our sales presentations, we have design presentations, we have a tech inspection where they go, where a couple of different judges go over single aspect of our cars, make sure it looks professional, just like an actual end product because we have to sell this like it's another side by side, like another UTV-style thing, so we have a lot that goes into it besides just driving them with the hundred other kids we do this with, but it's quite a bit of work.

TAYLOR: So how much effort and time do you estimate goes into like a car each?"

BOWEN: I'd say about nine to 10 months.

TAYLOR: Nine to 10 months to…

BOWEN: From start to finish.

TAYLOR: Right.

LAMANTIA: But just saying months doesn't tell you just how much, how many hours, how much effort goes into it.

BOWEN: This is more than a full-time job. We're down here every day.

TAYLOR: So, it's an annual event, um, so how did we go last year? Roughly.

BOWEN: Uh, we got 42nd, [unintelligible], out of 100 teams, but that's because three hours into the four hour endurance race, an entire piece of our frame rear ripped out because of a little bit of a discrepancy in design. So, we're hoping to miss that this year and get a lot better replacement.

TAYLOR: That must be really frustrating for you, putting all that work in, and then just like that one little malfunction…

BOWEN: Yeah, we were up to 18th place before that broke and it dropped us right back down.

TAYLOR: Yeah. So, is it, uh, kinda just building upon what you've done last year going into the next year?


TAYLOR: And just making sure kinda those little niggling things don't happen again?

BOWEN: Increase professionalism, lower tolerances in design, things like that. Try to make the best of what last year's could have been.

TAYLOR: So, um, hosting the event, it must be quite important as well. How would you describe the importance of it?

BOWEN: Um, it's a huge aspect of the marketing for this university, it's a huge aspect of what brings people into this place. Like Baja is one of the few types of events, uh, different student organizations that people actually know about outside of Cookeville, outside of middle Tennessee area, so it's a huge part of who we are and what a lot of the historical people here at Tennessee Tech actually identify with. So, it's a big responsibility, and we're pretty anxious about it, but also really excited.

LAMANTIA: It does bring a lot of people to the town of Cookeville, too. Um, it's over 100 teams from all over the world, so that's thousands of students alone from India, China, Brazil, Mexico and Canada. Just all over the place.

BOWEN: I mean, when we were seniors in high school we came and watched the last race that was here at Tennessee Tech. So, it means a lot to us too that it's here again.

TAYLOR: Yeah, you kind of touched upon it there. Being the host, does that put kind of extra pressure on you to perform in the races, or is it kind of just… yeah.

BOWEN: Oh, yeah definitely, yeah.

BOWEN: You mess up like we did last year at Oregon here, it's going to be a huge downfall on our mindset and it's going to decrease morale for the team quite a bit, I think.


BOWEN: So, we're definitely anxious about trying to step it up, make sure we perform well in this race.

TAYLOR: So, over the next kind of six months, what can we kind of expect from the Baja team? Is it just lots, lots of effort into the cars and marketing and all of that kind of stuff?

BOWEN: Many all-nighters. Lots of drinking of Red Bull. Um, lots and lots of work. We're supposed to-

LAMANTIA: Right now, we're trying to finish up the design phase for the car. We're slowly starting on little things as far as fabrication goes, but here pretty quick our frame is going to be done designing and we'll get a start on that. Once our frame is done, we can really dive in into the car and start getting the little stuff on there like the seat, the brakes, stuff like that.

BOWEN: We should have the general framework ready to be welded in the next week or two and then from there it kind of speeds up quite a bit. So.

TAYLOR: It's very important to kind of to hit- do you set yourself certain deadlines that you need to make? So like framework needs to be done by this and then when you said – Is that quite an important part?

LAMANTIA: Yeah, we have a huge Gantt chart that Craig has been working on for quite a while that sets pretty much every single parameter for everything we do with this car.

BOWEN: Which, like, with any typical project, you're not going to hit every deadline, but it's, it's pretty big to find those deadlines and try your best to stick to them.

TAYLOR: So, I think that was everything we had. So, thank you very much for your time.

BOWEN: Thank you.

An article about the Baja team can be found here: