Cornell Baja SAE Racing is an engineering project team which annually designs, builds and races an off-road vehicle to compete in the SAE Collegiate Baja Design Series. By encouraging hands-on engineering and project-based learning, Cornell Baja takes engineering out of the classroom (and onto the track) for 40 students annually. Each year, our research moves through 3 stages of review before our design is finalized: Preliminary Review, Critical Review, and Final Review. During this time, we’re also modifying our older cars, so we can test new designs on prior years’ vehicles. Following our final review, we move to our build phase. Each year, we continue to innovate and improve—redesigning even the smallest components. We balance hard work with a passion for our car, and we think that passion really makes the difference. The competition requires students to balance design and cost with dynamic performance while following a strict set of safety guidelines and standardized rules. There are three North American competitions annually, each with 100 competing teams. The competition is broken down into static and dynamic events.
Static events include our design presentation, cost report, sales presentation, and technical inspection. On the first day of competition, we compete in our sales presentation, where teams compete by creating hypothetical scenarios of entering a commercial market, pitching the hypothetical scenario to a series of industry judges. On the first day, our car also undergoes judging via cost, and our car must also pass our technical inspection, where judges scrutinize every inch of the car to make sure that it meets all of the competition rules and specifications. The second day of competition is dedicated to the design aspect of competition, where teams are given the chance to explain to judges what separates their car from the rest, what testing was done to drive decisions, and to point out any other innovations.
Dynamic events take place on the third and fourth days of competition. The third day is exclusively for time trials, where each car competes individually. 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 (often 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 wheel-to-wheel. The endurance race is the event worth the most points and makes designing and fabrication for durability paramount to success.
The drivetrain subteam is primarily responsible for efficiently transferring torque from the engine to the wheels. This is done using a custom designed CVT and gearbox to provide an adequate torque reduction. In addition, we are in the process of implementing a gearbox dynamometer, in order to gauge efficiency of our secondary reduction. We also design the wheel hubs which serve as the interface between the suspension and the wheels. Overall, we try to maximize powertrain efficiency, responsiveness and performance.
The Suspension sub-team develops the fully independent suspension system that helps our car negotiate large rocks, jump over logs, and maneuver hair pin turns. We custom design our links, ball joints, steering rack, uprights and bushings throughout the fall semester, then manufacture and tune our springs and dampers throughout the spring semester to develop the fastest and most maneuverable car. We TIG weld then heat-treat our all-aluminum suspension, which saves 6 pounds compared to the steel alternative - making our car one of the lightest at competition.
The frame subteam is tasked with designing and manufacturing the roll cage and main structure of the Baja car, creating a safe, protective barrier between our driver and the harsh obstacles of the course. The frame also must attach all of the other components of the car through a solid foundation. We must work with all of the other subteams to verify that their designs fit within the bounds of our frame, as well as the mountings for their systems. By working to create as light of a frame as possible while still providing the safety and strength necessary, we can reduce our weight and create the fastest, lightest car possible.
The unsprung subteam works primarily on the brakes system, and also does some work on the wheel assemblies. We design and manufacture custom master cylinders and brake calipers, as well as the brake pedal. Our goal is to create a system that will consistently deliver the required braking torque while minimizing weight and maximizing ease of maintenance. In particular, this year the subteam is focused on testing to ensure our load cases for analysis of the system are correct.
The ergonomics subteam is tasked with creating a seat and steering wheel that fit the driver’s body and reduce musculoskeletal fatigue during competition events, particularly the 4-hour endurance event. We combine ergonomic research with our own discomfort testing methodology to maximize driver support. To ensure the safety of our drivers, as well as critical mechanical components, we also build durable body panels that adhere tightly to the frame. The goal of the ergonomics subteam is to maximize driver performance, without compromising cost or weight, to bring the team one step closer to a win.
The Electronics sub-team is responsible for developing our custom suite of testing equipment. In order to validate the design for a component, we run it through a battery of tests. Nothing is added to the car unless it has gone through our through design and testing process. We collect essential data in real-time competitive environments and benchtests and extend the technological capabilities of the vehicle as a weight saving measure.
The Business sub-team acts as the liaison between the team and the Cornell community. We are responsible for recruiting new team members at the beginning of each semester, compiling a cost report for the competition, conducting purchases for the team, contacting alumni, corporations, and members of the community for sponsorships, designing and distributing public relations material, planning team travel, designing apparel, and maintaining the team website.