Students compete to create unique all-terrain vehicle

Thu, 06/05/2014

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Cody Howard
School of Engineering
785-864-2936

LAWRENCE — Students from the University of Kansas School of Engineering recently took part in an international competition that challenges collegiate teams from around the world to design, build and test an all-terrain vehicle that’s part dune buggy and part go-kart.

The competition, known as SAE Baja - UTEP, took place in late April at the University of Texas-El Paso. This is the first time in more than two decades that a team from KU participated in a SAE Baja Competition.

“Getting involved with this project is a great way to learn what real engineering is. To design and actually build this vehicle from scratch is an experience you don’t typically get in a classroom,” said Homer Kay, junior in mechanical engineering from Leawood. “Knowing every nut and bolt – where they go and how the vehicle is put together – is a lot different than analysis.  You can immediately see the flaws and learn, as opposed to theoretical application.”

The competition challenges teams to adhere to guidelines outlined in a 60-page rulebook, conduct business and design presentations, and operate a vehicle that can successfully navigate four course competitions: Acceleration, Hill Climb, Suspension and Traction, and Maneuverability. It also includes a four-hour endurance race where teams try to complete as many laps as they can on a track laid out on the rocky, hilly and sandy terrain of west Texas.

“Competing was a great experience. You are learning something every minute of every day, for all four days of the competition,” said William Hamilton, senior in mechanical engineering from Wichita.

The idea to participate in the SAE Baja Competition formed last year when Hamilton noticed ‘Baja Competition’ on a list of Society of Automotive Engineers student events and approached Robb Sorem, associate professor of mechanical engineering. Sorem agreed to serve as team adviser.

“I asked Sorem about getting involved with the team, and he told me KU didn’t currently have one. So I decided I’d start one, and I just ran with it. It was tough in the beginning – especially the fundraising – but in the end it was definitely worth it,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton and Kay hope to see KU build on this year’s experience and make the Baja competition an annual tradition.

“The great thing about this for students who might want to get involved is that it’s not just a senior design class. It’s a hands-on project for underclassmen. All students can get involved in design and construction and really participate in the entire experience,” Kay said.

KU finished in 48th place overall. More than 100 teams registered for the event. See the full results here.

Team members:

  • David Bedford, Lenexa
  • Benjamin Dieker, Ogden, Utah
  • William Hamilton, Wichita
  • Taylor Joyce, Leavenworth
  • Michael Just, DeSoto
  • Homer Kay, Leawood
  • Austin Merritt, Goddard
  • Shane O’Brien, Cheney
  • Alex Staton, Salina
  • Ian Thompson, Westminster, Maryland
  • Richard Wagner, Kansas City, Kansas
  • Kevin Walbridge, Overland Park.


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Poet offers insights to Jayhawk experience through wordplay "Welcome to KU. Where questions rest, in stacks of answers from the past. …" Listen to Topher Enneking, a spoken word poet and former KU football player, as he weaves the experience of KU and its traditions through this storytelling and wordplay performance. Learn more about KU traditions at http://www.ku.edu/about/traditions/. Welcome to KU. Where questions rest in stacks of answers from the past. Where dreams crawl out of bed And learn to walk Uphill both ways. Where freshmen stand on stilts And hang from the rafters, While the wheat waves In a fieldhouse Where the Phog rolls in Helping us to see Through the past into the future. Haunting hosts giving handouts in a heritage Too heavy to grasp til you add to it. So it may be born anew, Allowing our boots to stand in the ash of oppression’s hate But shine bright as the sun While war cries of warriors past Ring in our ears long after their battles are won. Memorials telling time, “you don’t have to stand still.” Because the top of the world Is just up that Hill. Where our natural history is an awe-struck echo Of world’s fair and equal Past, present and future, prelude and sequel. Where our flags fly above planes. Where we build in chalks that can’t be erased. Stone edifices made to last So you would walk Past their doors, down their halls And let your voice fill their room. Because only in empty silence can destruction loom. So stand tall. Wrap your arms around this crowd Sing our alma mater and sing it out loud. Let your voice sing in chorus and reach other nations Beckoning new Jayhawks to spark new collaborations Because you are the mortar that will hold these walls upright. Your future Your dreams are why Jayhawks did fight For the tradition before you Was merely prelude For what will come next now that you’re at KU.


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