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TTU News

Taking their "if we build it, we will win" attitude into competition, Tennessee Tech University's Mini-Baja team members defended their national title during this summer's Midwest and East events.

The team won the 2003 Midwest Mini Baja in Dayton, Ohio, and earned third place in the East competition in Orlando, Fla., to defend the Dayton Cup, awarded to the team with the best combined performance in two competitions.

"I look at the level of competition and the 145 teams this year and am tremendously impressed with the capabilities our students display year after year," said team adviser Dale Wilson. "Our team's consistency of ranking at or near the top of the competition over a long period of time is a testament to their hard work and their talents."

Mini Baja is a design competition that challenges students to work as a team in the designing, building and testing of an off-road vehicle that is capable of negotiating rough terrain. The judges look for originality, craftsmanship and even production costs, along with how a vehicle performs under grueling conditions.

This year's TTU team developed a vehicle with tremendous maneuverability, landing it the second highest score in that category in the Midwest. The team also tied for fourth place in hill climbing.

In the East, Tennessee Tech competed in both static and dynamic events. The first day of competition included judging for cost, sales presentation, engineering design and safety. Day two required the team to compete in land and water maneuverability, acceleration and power pull. The final day presented the challenge of a grueling four-hour endurance race.

"After a strong performance during the static and dynamic events of the East event, we were in the lead going into the endurance race," said team member Florin Marcu. "Our progress was halted by a tiny piece of trash in the carburetor, but our overall performance kept us in the competition."

Other team awards included the Honda R&D Americas Endurance Award and the Honda R&D Americas Engineering Design Award. ity employee, is credited with encouraging and supporting the Mini Baja program during its development. Wilson also says his predecessor, adviser Robert Smoak who is retiring, built a strong foundation for the program.

Competing in Mini Baja requires more than building the car. To raise money for the project, teams solicit corporate sponsorship in cash or parts. Every year a significant amount of time has to be allocated to finding sponsors. The students were able to work in a refurbished facility and with new equipment this year in the new DENSO Vehicle Engineering Center, created with funds from a donation given by DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee and the DENSO North America Foundation.

For more than 25 years, Briggs and Stratton Corp. has donated 10 horsepower engines to all teams. In addition to team sponsors, SAE International promotes corporate sponsorship at the national level. Briggs and Stratton, Honda R&D Americas, Mechanical Dynamics and Polaris Industries support the engineering education program by contributing funds and sponsoring awards.

For more information about the Mini Baja competition, visit or