February 17, 2010
School of Engineering, Coimbatore
The Baja SAE contest, open to all engineering students, is a contest for designing an all-terrain vehicle. Amrita students from the Coimbatore campus competed in the contest with 80 other teams from around the country.
Amrita received a prize for their Silver Light Car; it was the second-most economical car entered in the contest. The students made this winning model under the leadership of their faculty mentor, Dr. Thirumalini.
Vishwanath, student of third year B.Tech. (Mech) was one of the ten members of the student team. He penned the following day-by-day account of the team’s participation in 2010 Baja-SAE contest.
Excitement was in the air, as the mental countdown began the moment we reached our hotel. Earlier, upon reaching Indore, the venue of Baja 2010, we had studied the surroundings and given the finishing touches to our car.
Jan 29, 2010
This first day was dedicated to static events. When we arrived at the NATRIP facility where the track was located, we heard the distinct voice of Mr. Behram Dhabar, the DGM, R&D of Mahindra and Mahindra.
“All teams are to bring their vehicles for the technical inspection. The inspection will be on till 17:00 hrs only. Any team who fails to get the Technical OK sticker will not be allowed to race tomorrow.” Wow what a welcome to the track! But we were not deterred by this.
We took the time to make sure that everything was perfect. There were teams that finished their inspection first and covered their car for the day. We moved nervously towards the inspection area, hoping and praying that everything would be ok.
Tension filled our minds as Mr. Dhabar checked each part of our vehicle. Five minutes later, he stuck the sticker. We were relieved to have passed the inspection without any problems. We left the arena, excited for the big milestone completed. A great start for a great event!
Next we completed the engine test and checked the weight of our car. Next was the brake test. The rules were simple — drive your car for 150 feet and slam your brakes. If all wheels lock, you pass, if they don’t, you get back to the pit and repair and come back and try again.
We had no problems, what so ever. Then we stayed in our pits while four teams of two officials each, checked our car for its design, ergonomics, suspension, steering and innovation.
Jan 30, 2010
This was the dynamic events day. Each team had to undergo three challenges, namely Acceleration, Hill Climb and Maneuverability. We started with the Acceleration test. Our car, stood at the line, full of confidence, and when the official said, “go” we were off. It took us 7.6 seconds to complete the 150-feet straight track. We were pretty satisfied.
Then we went for the Hill Climb test. Thoughts of whether the car would actually climb the hill haunted us. But our car never let us down and effortlessly climbed it, clocking a time of 11.57 seconds. Next was the toughest and the most skillful test – Maneuverability. We were doubtful, as we seen several cars taking ages to complete the track.
Our driver, however, handled the track with dexterity, completing the run in a time of 90 seconds. That brought us to the end of the day. We left extremely satisfied that we, as a team, had built a car on our own, with our own hands. It felt just like we had just climbed the highest peak and proved that as a team, we could do wonders.
Jan 31, 2010
This was the final day of the competition. There was the endurance test wherein each car had to complete or at least try to complete the three hour race. Three hours sounds too short, doesn’t it? But for hand-built vehicles, its not gonna be easy. Who knows what parts of the car would disassemble in this time, bringing the car and the hopes to a standstill.
But our car was there, proudly standing at the starting grid, shining in red and silver. We started the race 33rd (we were 33rd in the acceleration test). The race began, few cars got the best starts and others like ours were content to go slower. Teams were actually racing and not enduring, so much so, that team 64’s car, which was flying, and which had timed the fastest lap of 7’40” broke down after 5 laps.
We, on the other hand, were patient, clocking constant times of 9’ per lap. We came into the pits after 4 laps for refueling and improving our front suspension. When we rejoined the race, we discovered that the race leader had already completed 7 laps. Meanwhile, a fire broke out on a car that caused the officials to stall the race. The race resumed after ascertaining that everything was fine.
After a grueling three hours, team 7 won the endurance test completing 21 laps. We finished 11 laps. We were overjoyed with the result as we had stood up to our own expectations and targets.
The Prize Distribution
We were short-listed among the top six for Business Presentation, but we didn’t win. But suddenly we heard an announcement. “The second prize for making the most cost-effective car goes to the Amrita School of Engineering’s Silver Spirit.”
We were overjoyed! We all started moving towards the stage. We were awarded a check for Rs. 40,000 and a trophy. Of all 80 cars, we had made the second-most economical ATV (all-terrain vehicle) in the competition and had lost to the first prize winners by just one point.
Overall we had finished 21st overall. “You guys make the best team one can ever have, thank you,” our captain told us. Every moment on that race track was an unforgettable experience.