Baja Blast: An introduction to Tech’s Baja team

Craig Bowen and Max Lamantia with their car.  Photo by Britney Beaty

Mechanical engineering students weld, tinker and joke in a workshop beneath Tucker Stadium while constructing an off-road vehicle they plan to race in April.

Tech participates in Baja Society of Automotive Engineers, an intercollegiate competition in which students design, create and race rugged, off-road vehicles.

The event prepares students for real-world situations involving problem-solving skills.

“Every year we build one of these cars from scratch,” Baja team co-captain Maxavier Lamantia said. “We do everything that involves creating a prototype for a new side-by-side type car for the market.”

There are multiple aspects to the competition, which are all of equal importance.

“It’s not just about taking these cars and racing them four hours,” co-captain Craig Bowen said. “It’s also about proving our design is something that can be marketed for the real world.”

According to Lamantia and Bowen, the Baja team faces several challenges as they progress through a build. 

“Time is the biggest challenge, especially this year. Say you give yourself two weeks to build the suspension. It’s never going to be two weeks to build it,” Lamantia said. “There’s always going to be obstacles and milestones hit and missed. Everything gets pushed back constantly.”

Building a car for the Baja SAE competition requires a devoted team of students who are willing to work long hours.

Lamantia said Tech’s team consists of about 40 people who meet throughout the week. Around 20 of those members work on the car every weekday. 

According to Bowen and Lamantia, some members spend about 75 to 100 hours per semester working on projects. 

“We pull all-nighters sometimes, especially around racing season,” Lamantia said.

Students say they find their heard work is worthwhile despite the challenges and struggles.

Lamantia said it is amazing seeing all of the team’s hard work pay off at the end of the season.

“You’re really proud. It’s kind of like your baby,” he said.

The next competition the team competes in take place at Tennessee Tech April 11-14. Teams vie for trophies and at the end of the competition, a winner is selected. 

More information about Tech’s Baja team is available on their website.

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