Rowan Motorsports, Rowan University’s chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), offers hands-on engineering which challenges students to learn how to design, build and race vehicles. The vehicles they ultimately build are used to participate in two-out-of-five of SAE’s international collegiate design series, Baja and Supermileage.
“Our goal is to give the engineering students here a chance to see what it’s like to go through the full engineering design process,” said Brendon Rush, a senior mechanical engineer and president of SAE.
Engineering students are required to take a clinic class; one option is for students to work on vehicles in the Baja clinic. As a class, students may not have the time — if they only take the clinic for one semester — to go through the whole trial and error process. But as a member of the club, SAE has years to work on and maintain these big vehicles, which gives students the opportunity to understand the engineering process that they will be involved with when they graduate.
When designing the vehicles, students are required to follow a rule book with the first rule being safety. Rowan also stands out in the fact that they do all their own fabrication — they design and build the whole vehicle from scratch — which is not common.
SAE Baja focuses on the endurance of off-road vehicles. It is one thing to be able to build a vehicle, and another thing for the vehicle to last through challenging obstacles such as mud, rocks, snow, ice and off-jumps, for four hours.
SAE Supermilage, which Rowan started participating in about four years ago, challenges students to build the most fuel efficient vehicle.
Most recently, the Rowan SAE Motorsports Baja team participated in a 27-car race in Canada, known as the Eprueve du Nord 11th edition. The off-season, two-hour race took place in Quebec City. This race was the final race before the varsity team graduates and retires.
On the day of packing for the trip, the varsity team turned on their engine to drive their competition vehicle onto the box truck for transport, when the transmission blew, breaking right outside of their workshop door. They were able to fix it and overcome this obstacle along with the others they tackled during the race. The varsity team finished third earning Rowan its first ever podium position and trophy in the Canadian race.
“This was our team’s last race and last attempt at a trophy,” Rush said. “We had been hit by challenges both internal and external in our previous competitions and it gives me so much pride that in our last race we proved we could earn a spot on the podium.”
Annually, one vehicle is sent to compete in a United States-based regular season race — a race during the main period of the league’s competition — in April. This race is for the Junior Varsity team to participate in.
“The current class of juniors, myself included, has been looking forward to our competition in Tennessee since we were freshmen,” Max Bareiss, a junior mechanical engineer, team captain and head of electronics, said. “I’ve been involved in the club since I saw them at Engineering Accepted Students Day, where I saw the Baja car and said to myself, ‘this is what I’m going to do in college.’”
SAE’s Rowan Motorsports is not only a club for aspiring engineering students, but students of any major. The club provides education, puts in service hours and participates in school events.
“I’ve never met a more passionate, dedicated, hardworking group of people in my life,” Sean Mulvihill, junior mechanical engineer and member of the suspension/steering team, said. “It truly astounds me the way’s we’ve been able to grow the club in the last few years, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in the future.”
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