Site preparation begins for 2008 Baja competition on campus

The changing landscape between 9th and 12th Streets that borders Pine Avenue -- dirt mounds, a racing path and a pond -- signals a big event coming to Tennessee Tech University this spring.

Engineering students are digging, clearing and building in preparation to host the 2008 Society of Automotive Engineer's regional Baja competition on May 1, 2 and 3. Eighty-four teams from six countries will compete in the off-road collegiate design series that features all-terrain vehicles powered by Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engines.

The competition area is a popular place for community members and students, especially paintball players, to use, but organizers say site preparations will soon be in full swing.

"We know a lot of people are curious about what is going on along the whole area from 12th Street to Tech Village," said Justin Stacy, a mechanical engineering doctoral student. "We've already cleaned up the area and cleared a path in the woods. We'll soon be digging, building a pond and preparing jumps.

"We hope the community will come out in the spring to enjoy the event, but right now, safety is our number one priority," said Stacy. "We're asking everyone to stop using the area for recreation."

TTU police have increased patrolling the site and warning signs and fencing will soon appear.

In May, teams from the United States, Canada, Brazil, France, Venezuela and Mexico will compete. TTU's team won the Dayton Cup, the national Mini Baja award for the year's best team, in 2002 and 2003. TTU has 11 first place finishes and 25 Top 5 finishes since the team began competing in 1978.

TTU's Department of Mechanical Engineering is directing the site preparation. For more information, contact Dale Wilson at 372-3254. To learn more about the race, visit www.ttubaja2008.com.