You're part of the McGill Baja Racing team. What does that involve, racing cars?
The name may make it sound like we just race cars but we really do much more. We start right from the bottom and design and build the cars entirely before taking them to race.
Where do these races happen? Are they part of a competition?
The main races are located throughout North America at various host universities. The races are part of one of the Society of Automotive Engineers
(SAE) intercollegiate design series. The competitions host 100 teams from around the globe to compete in 3 days of events. The competition consists of both static events in design, sales and cost as well as dynamic events in Acceleration, Hill Climb, Manoeuvrability and Suspension & Traction. The final day of the competition consists of a four-hour endurance race in which all competing cars are on the track racing wheel to wheel!
This past season, the primary competitions were hosted by Tennessee Tech University, Western Washington University and Rochester Institute of Technology. In the past we've only been able to attend two of the three but this season our team also attended two smaller more friendly competitions: one hosted by the University of Louisville in Louisville, KY and the other hosted by Université Laval in Quebec City, QC.
Do you work on the cars, i.e. is there an automobile engineering component?
Absolutely. The Baja vehicle that we race is 100% designed and built by us. With the exception of the engine, which is a 10 horsepower engine donated by Briggs and Stratton, every component is fabricated or chosen by us. The first part of the season is spent in the design phase during which all the ideas are put to work to design and select the many components that make up the various subsystems of our Baja vehicle. Throughout the design phase, we are performing studies and tests to validate the design decisions that we are making. Many of the components of the car including the frame, drivetrain and steering systems are manufactured almost entirely in house.
How did you all learn the technical knowledge to do that?
We learn some of the basics in class but most of the knowledge is passed down year to year. For a team of university students, it is so important to keep recruiting new members, getting them interested in our project and transferring knowledge. Much of the knowledge is self taught and the skills that we learn are completely unique to what we learn in class. It's a really cool way to complement what is learned in class.
Who makes up the team? Engineers?
The team consists of about 50 students, with the largest part studying Mechanical Engineering. There are about 10 non-mechanical engineers on the team as well as students from other faculties like arts and business.
Do you plan to pursue this as a career? Perhaps designing Formula One cars?!
I'm not entirely sure what career path I want to take but I can't think of many better ones than continuing to design and build race cars. Working for a Formula One team would be a wild experience.
McGill Engineering is a very strong, theoretical program. The concepts studied are seen in depth in class, but there isn't much chance for hands-on experience. Joining any engineering design team allows students the opportunity to see what is taught in class applied to real life problems. I would strongly recommend getting involved