Student-designed transmission passes test for Baja SAE

Months of painstaking work resulted in an impressive showing on the international stage for Pennsylvania College of Technology at the recent Society of Automotive Engineers’ event in Cookeville, Tennessee.

Featuring a new, student-designed continuously variable transmission, the college’s single-seat, off-road vehicle finished eighth out of 96 cars in the endurance race at Baja SAE Tennessee Tech. It’s the college’s eighth top 10 finish in the race — considered Baja SAE’s marquee event — since 2011.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way our car performed with the new CVT,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of manufacturing and machining and adviser to the college’s Baja SAE club. “We were one of the fastest 10 cars. Nobody pulled away from us. We most likely would have finished higher if the race wasn’t shortened. We usually do our best in the last hour of the event.”

The threat of severe weather cut about 90 minutes off the race, which was scheduled to last four hours.

The Penn College entry began the endurance event in the 23rd position and steadily advanced to third. After being rear-ended and suffering a broken tire seal, Penn College fell back a lap, but its eighth-place showing still topped many notable schools, including Notre Dame, Cornell, Nebraska, UCLA, Northwestern, Bucknell, Virginia, West Virginia and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Several students spent about a year designing, manufacturing the parts and assembling the new CVT, which is three pounds lighter than the previous version and features better material (titanium and aluminum) and a greater shift range for the 330-pound car.

“The new CVT really sets us up to be a very competitive team well into the future,” Upcraft said.

The college will put it to the test again when it competes at Baja SAE Rochester in Rochester, New York, June 6 to 9.

Penn College competitors at Baja SAE Tennessee Tech were: manufacturing engineering technology students Shujaa AlQahtani, of Saudi Arabia; Christopher M. Schweikert, of Jamison; John D. Kleinfelter, of Lebanon; Trevor M. Clouser, of Millmont; Myron D. Milliken, of Lewistown; Dakota C. Harrison, of Lewisberry; and Dominic J. Lepri, of Monroe Township, New Jersey; engineering design technology students Matthew J. Nyman, of Lock Haven; Bradley M. Haines, of Mifflinburg; Mark A. Turek, of Red Lion; and Jacob C. Hudock, of Berwick; engineering CAD technology student Corey J. Mason, Lake City; automated manufacturing technology student Daniel M. Gerard, of Doylestown; and building construction technology student Stephen T. Lang, of Mercer.