Baja's Learning Curve

Wow the end of the semester was crazy! Now that it's all done and life has calmed down, I have some time to give an update on the progress of the Baja car.

Our progress this year has been slower in years past. I take a lot of the blame for this because I had a lot of personal set backs and curveballs that took my time and focus away from Baja. Because of this, I was not able to get the design work done as soon as I would have liked. Nevertheless, we pushed on.

Over Easter break I had a big project: redesign the engine and transmission box. This box was a senior project last year. The transmission sits inside it and the engine mounts on top of it. It was designed to allow the drive train to be removed by undoing a few bolts. It worked great! But with the new rear cage required the drive train to be mounted farther back and the engine would then be sticking outside of the cage. This could be a huge problem if the car was to roll and the engine was informally introduced to the ground. So, over Easter break I redesigned the box to mount the engine on the other side of the transmissions CVT pully so the transmission could be as far rearward in the car as possible while moving the engine well within the roll cage. I wish I had some renderings to show you but in the rush to get it designed and sent off to our sponsor to be cut and then finals I didn't have time to make any. I will try to make some renderings as soon as possible but that might not be until the new school year.

As seems to be a theme with this year, everything looked perfect on paper but didn't work out right in execution. The parts just arrived at the school and I got word that they aren't going to use the new engine box because it weighs about 150 lbs. The last engine box was made of aluminum which is less dense and not as strong as steel. Since we were crunched for time, we didn't have time to run simulations and find the perfect thickness of steel to use. We decided to switch to steel so we could weld it ourselves since the aluminum had to be outsourced to get welded together. To save what little time we had, we just used the same thickness that the aluminum was. If the box was a similar size to the old one the weight gain would likely be pretty minimal but the new engine box is about twice the size. Thus, the box of steel that weighs just under half the weight of last years entire car.

In every regard, this year has been a year to learn from. Baja has been no exception. I grew tremendously as a designer, made more than my fair share of mistakes, and learned more than I can put in words. So this may not be the best year for Tiger Racing but it's not the last year. Jordan and I have some great ideas on how to grow and develop our team. I have an idea on how better delegate the design work so every project is gone through with a fine tooth comb and the mistakes of this year don't happen again.

Thankfully, we have a handful of people still at school that will be finishing the car for competition in Peoria in June. We're confident that we can get the car ready and make it to competition.

What a year! Here's to another great one. Go Tigers!