Students snatch first in mini-baja competition

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    By John Candland

    BYU students took first and third place honors last week at a competition for mini-baja vehicles.

    The Manhattan Madness 2000: Mini Baja West competition, held at Kansas State University, was sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

    The event was made up of several competitions to test each team’s “mini baja,” which are single-driver, off-road vehicles.

    “We came home with more plaques than any other school, from any previous competition that we know of,” said Robert H. Todd, professor of mechanical engineering and coach of the teams.

    Eighty-six teams from 56 schools participated in the event, representing 25 states and three countries, including Mexico and Colombia.

    Todd said he doesn’t know of a college ever having two winning teams.

    “This has got to be one of the most, if not the most prestigious competitions engineering students can enter in the nation with respect to automotive vehicle engineering design and performance,” Todd said.

    Categories of competition included design, acceleration, sales presentation, cost, hill climbing, maneuvering, endurance and five overall winners.

    BYU’s team of mechanical engineering juniors won first place overall, as well as second place in the acceleration event.

    The team of senior students won third overall and the Cessna award, along with second place awards for endurance and sales presentation.

    The Cessna award, presented to the seniors’ team, was based on criteria of creativity, enthusiasm, spirit, selflessness, and attitude.

    “You would have been proud of BYU,” Todd said. “The officials spoke very highly of our students.”

    “A good attitude is something people remember, and this team gives a very favorable impression of Brigham Young,” said Jennifer Holley of the Cessna Aircraft Company, in a letter of congratulations.

    Holley made special note of the teams’ selflessness in an incident where a competitor’s car had trouble.

    “Brigham Young’s team members came to the aid of the competition and helped push the troubled car back to their pit for maintenance,” Holley said.

    Mike Liechty, a junior from Provo, said he barely squeaked through the endurance event, which cuts off racers who have not reached a certain point by the four-hour mark. “I was counting the seconds on the clock, saying ‘Please! Please!,'” Liechty said.

    Junior team captain Mike Whiting said that winning first prize was an unexpected honor.

    “It was unbelievable because we went in to have a good time, as a precursor to our senior year, but it all worked out for us,” Whiting said.

    Jisang Sun, a junior from Seoul, Korea, said that the key to winning first place was consistency.

    “We got second place in one event, but for the seven events we were consistently in the top five, top six,” he said.

    The team of seniors included Phillip Toone, Aaron Fox, Yuri Hovanski, Joe Memmott, Trever Coppeiters, Ben Morgan, Brian Llewellyn, Brett Withers and Steven Tuttle.

    Members of the junior team were Rob Cloward, Jisang Sun, Mike Liechty, Michael Whiting, Jason Elliott and Brandon Glissmeyer.

    “In the end it didn’t make any difference who was on which team,” Todd said. “It was all for one and one for all, like the three musketeers.”

    The senior team built their car as part of the Senior Capstone Project. Their car was built from the ground up with the exception of the engine, provided by Briggs and Stratton.

    The junior team, whose participation was extra-curricular, redesigned a car used as part of last year’s senior capstone project.

    Aaron Fox, a senior in mechanical engineering from Flagstaff, Ariz., said he was grateful for the opportunity to have real life engineering experience while still in school.

    “It has been one of the more valuable parts of the whole experience at BYU,” Fox said.

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