Michigan State Baja Racing is an engineering project team which annually designs, builds, and races an off-road vehicle to compete in Baja SAE competitions. SAE, or the "Society of Automotive Engineers," is an international organization that promotes the exchange of important information and ideas between engineers in mobility-related professions. Baja SAE events are part of SAE's Collegiate Design Series - a bunch of different competitions that give college students hands on engineering experience. You can visit www.sae.org to learn more about SAE or click here to read SAE's brief description of Baja SAE.
There are three Baja SAE events in the United States every year, which Michigan State regularly participates in. There are also events in in South Africa, Brazil, South Korea, and Mexico. Each year, about 100 teams participate in three US competitions: the West Competition, the Midwest Competition, and the East Competition. For the 2015-2016 season, these competitions will take place in California, Tennessee, and New York. Each competition requires students to balance cost with design and dynamic performance while following a strict set of safety regulations and standardized rules. Competitions are four days long during which teams compete in three static events and five dynamic events for a grand total of 1000 points.
Static Events are so named because the car does not move during these events. The static events take place on the first two days of a competition. The scored static events are the Cost Report, Sales Presentation, and Design Judging. Respectively, these events are worth 100, 50, and 150 points.
The Cost Report is a document containing what the team has calculated to be the Actual Cost and Adjusted Cost of their car and their justification (calculations). Actual Cost is the amount of money the team actually spent to build their car. Adjusted Cost, basically, is a cost calculated from standardized materials/labor costs made up by the judges for the purposes of making the event more fair. For example, if two different teams actually paid $2/lb and $0.75/lb for mild steel, respectively, they would both use the standard $1/lb to calculate their Adjusted Costs.
The Sales Presentation is an approximately 15 minute session within which teams try to convince a hypothetical manufacturing company to purchase their vehicle's design and put it into production. Each sales pitch must be a maximum of 10 minutes long, and a 5 minute question and answer session with the judges follows the pitch.
Technical Inspection is also considered a static event, but is not scored. However, teams must pass Tech Inspection to race their vehicle in the dynamic events, which are worth a lot of points. During Technical Inspection, judges carefully examine every inch of the car to make sure that it is within the specifications laid out in the rules. If a team does not pass Tech Inspection right away, they are allowed to make modifications to their vehicle at the competition and have their vehicle reinspected until the afternoon of the second day of competition when the Tech Inspection event closes.
Dynamic events take place on the third and fourth days of competition. The third day is exclusively for time trials. Each team races their car through a number of events including a maneuverability course, an acceleration track, a hill climb or tractor pull event, and a special event specified for each competition (suspension and traction, or rock crawl). The fourth day of competition is reserved for a four hour endurance race in which all participating teams are on the same track at once, racing side by side. This part of the competition is the event worth the most points and makes designing and fabrication for durability paramount to success.