Cincy Baja team earned their first-ever first place finish

After a successful initial venture into the world of off-road vehicle design, manufacturing, and racing in June 2023 at the international SAE Baja competition in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the Cincinnati State Baja team continued their learning and racing at Baja SAE Ohio in Nashport, Ohio, in early September 2023.

The Ohio event was the second race with the car called “Jazz” that students built for the Spring 2023 Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) Capstone Project class.

Cincy Baja team members included (in photo, from left) Zane Decker (advisor), Sam Emmerling, Christian Iaroli, Alex Grothaus, Alex Flagg, Ben Scheffter, Demitri Woyak, Denver Nieman, and the “Jazz” car.

MET instructor Zane Decker, the Baja team advisor, said the team worked hard over the summer to fix problems discovered during the first Baja competition.

“The car performed very well at the very fun race” in Ohio competition, Zane said. The Cincy Baja team improved their scores in almost all of the events.

Zane said the team was able to resolve a long list of fixes and improvements, and as a result, earned the team’s first trophy– first place in the Pilot Pull event, where the student-built vehicle had to tow a full-sized Honda Pilot SUV.

Cincy Baja car winning the Pilot Pull event
Cincy Baja car winning the Pilot Pull event

For this unique event, the Honda Pilot was outfitted with a computer system that progressively applied an increase in braking torque (force) for each 1 meter of travel. The Cincy Baja car was able to pull the Honda almost the entire 71 meters, beating out all other Baja cars at the event.

You can see a glimpse of the team receiving their first place award near the end of this 6-minute Ohio Baja highlights video.

The Cincy Baja team finished a respectable 33rd overall, out of 76 participating college and university teams. In addition to winning the Pilot Pull, the team was 13th in the Maneuverability event, 25th in Suspension and Traction, and 29th in the four-hour Endurance race, completing the event despite two hours of repairs that took the car away from the competition.

A critical part–the steering knuckle–broke during the endurance race, but the team was able to devise a mid-race fix to get the car back on the track.

“The part that broke was custom designed and machined for the MET Capstone project,” Zane said. “The students are already working on a better design for the next car.”

Zane said the original Cincy Baja team members “have done well to transfer their engineering and professional team dynamic to the next group of students,” who will build a new car for the 2024 race season.

“It’s bittersweet saying goodbye to our first group,” Zane said. “Thanks to the dedication and countless hours of work put in by this team of exceptional students, the future of Cincy Baja is looking very bright.”

The 2024 Spring MET Capstone class will be building a new car, and a bigger team expects to compete in the next international Baja event in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in May 2024.