BUTTE - Montana Tech has a diverse range of studies - but there is one program on campus that unites them all.
The Montana Tech Baja Team is gearing up for an international competition in Tennessee, a competition the Butte squad finished in the top 10 one year ago.
Sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the Baja team is open to any Montana Tech students, no matter what the major.
A specifically formed frame is the greatest unifier on the Montana Tech campus. This soon-to-be Baja buggy is the brainchild of students from all walks of campus life. Its predecessor put Tech in the top 10 at last year's Society of Automotive Engineers competition. And the 2022 version is planned to be an improvement on the design.
"We took last year's design and we found areas that we could improve on," said Layton Bahnmiller, a team member. "We've been working on designing new pieces, new components. We put a new transmission in it this year, redid the 4-wheel drive system and we're just trying to incrementally improve it each year, instead of trying to do a full overhaul."
SAE gives the team a 10 HP engine and a book full of standards that must be met to compete. Checks for the competition is strict - you don't pass, you don't compete. Then it's head-to-head against dozens of teams from across the country and around the world. Think big schools - MIT, Texas Tech, or how about India?
So how does the event's competition work?
Laci Lien another member of the team explained. "Sled pull - you have a sled attached and you pull it down the runway. The weight was gradually added. We went until our front wheels picked up and we couldn't go anymore. Maneuverability - you go through an obstacle course with tight turns with loops. If you get two tires out, you're out. Then the last day is a 4-hour endurance race. We made it through all four hours. We did break something off, but it was fine, the buggy could still move, so we kept going."
The vehicle is one thing, but someone has to drive it. And the requirements for the driver are almost as stiff as those for the buggy.
"I have to know like the different flags during the endurance race will work," said William Fievez, the driver of Tech's buggy. "I have to be able to get in and out of the buggy within 5 seconds for safety reasons. Also, since this club is mostly mechanics, I'm the only electrical. So, I'm also in charge of this year, putting in all the electrical systems together such as the kill switches for the engine, the clutch, from two-wheel to four-wheel drive and the brake light as well."
Last year's competition was held in Arizona, this year's will be in Tennessee. All 8 team members left campus on May 10, with the competition beginning on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.