JHU Baja : Among the best in the world
With a new racing strategy, described by senior biomedical engineering major and team captain Nate Schambach as “less drama and more laps,” the Johns Hopkins University’s Baja team capped off its best season ever with two top 10 finishes in international competitions this spring.
After achieving an eighth-place finish (its highest ever) at the annual Baja SAE international racing competition in Auburn, Alabama, on April 12, the muddy team of undergraduates returned to Baltimore with a coveted asphalt trophy (made from a core sample taken from the Auburn racing track) ready to take on its next challenge: the Maryland Baja competition in Mechanicsville, Maryland, on May 7. There, Hopkins placed ninth overall out of 132 teams hailing from nine countries and four continents.
“They have worked very hard and had extraordinary success,” says Nathan Scott, Senior Design Instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Whiting School. “When you consider that they came in 8th and 9th place in the world out of more than 100 teams, including very strong teams from USA, Brazil and Canada, their accomplishments truly are remarkable.”
Each year, the Hopkins Baja team designs and builds a single-seat off-road vehicle that can withstand rough terrain. The competition includes dynamic events (such as acceleration, hill climbs, and rock crawls) and a single, four-hour endurance race. The teams use the same 10-horsepower Briggs and Stratton motor. The students design, build, test, promote, and race the vehicle within the limits of the rules, and they are also responsible for generating financial support for their project.
“The most exciting part of the competitions are always the endurance races on the last day,” says Anna Goodridge, ’17, a mechanical engineering major and captain of the 2015-2016 Baja team. “That race is the only part of the competition where all 100 vehicles are out on the track at the same time and is essentially a combination of all of the different dynamic events.”
Goodridge describes the experience as being “thrilling and terrifying” when the vehicle that she and teammates had spent “thousands of hours” designing and building breaks down on the racecourse. But she admits that few emotions can beat the feeling of camaraderie and pride when that same team does “whatever needs to be done as fast as humanly possible” to get its vehicle back out into the fray.
In fact, it’s that sense of teamwork and friendly competition that Goodridge values most about the Baja experience.
“Not only does the team work together better than ever (in the heat of a competition break-down), but we also work with our competitors. It is common for teams to ask for help from anyone who can provide it, and everyone helps each other – even people on competing teams,” she says.
Excerpted from The Hub, where a gallery of photos from recent competitions is available.