NMSU’s First All-Female Team to vie for Checkered Flag at Mini Baja Competition in April

When the green flag waves at the SAE Collegiate Design Series competition next month in Tennessee a group of New Mexico State University students will make history.

For the first time, an all-female team, Pink Baja or T2 team, a new startup team will represent NMSU at Mini Baja SAE Tennessee Tech,April 14-17, in Cookeville, Tennessee. Pink Baja will be one of only two all-female teams in the 300-team field. The competition consists of designing, fabricating and racing an off-road vehicle.

NMSU has been involved with SAE Mini Baja for more than three decades. The T1 team also will compete this spring at SAE Mini Baja California, May 19-22, in Gorman, California.

The Pink Baja team members are Leslie Hathaway, Katrina Heyne, Lindsay Martinez, Caitlynn Roy and Jaymie Velasquez, who participated on the T1 team last year, and Amanda Bass, Drew Cassidy, Crystal Smith and Ericka Vega are new additions to the team this year.

Ken Ruble, operations manager for the student project center in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and fourth-year Mini Baja adviser, is pleased to see the Pink Baja team become a reality.

“It’s been a dream of mine for a couple years now. The female-to-male ratio in engineering is really small but it seems like every female engineering student we have in engineering is just awesome,” he said. “I think the thing that really makes the Pink Baja team unique is tearing down the intimidation barriers.”

Velasquez, a chemical engineering senior, said she joined Pink Baja when she realized she had a passion and curiosity to learn more about motorsports and mechanics.

“There’s so many facets and components of it, and the learning curve is approximately vertical,” she said. “For Pink Baja, we have found very, very quickly how much work there is to do and how lean we are as a team.

“It’s really great because it simulates the real world, simulates industry, simulates real engineering, real designs, real constraints, we have a budget, we have timeline. It’s a learning experience and it’s great.”

Ruble said building a Mini Baja car is an intensive process.

“We design the cars from the ground up,” he said. “We have a rule book that’s an inch thick that we have to design to. Every team runs the exact same engine. They are donated by Briggs & Stratton. The challenge is to build a lightweight car with really good suspension, very robust and durable.”

According to the SAE International website, “the object of the competition is to provide SAE student members with a challenging project that involves the design, planning and manufacturing tasks found when introducing a new product to the consumer industrial market. Teams compete against one another to have their design accepted for manufacture by a fictitious firm. Students must function as a team to not only design, build, test, promote, and race a vehicle within the limits of the rules, but also to generate financial support for their project and manage their educational priorities.”

In its first year, the Pink Baja team has faced a few obstacles.

“We had really high hopes to design and fabricate this year,” Velasquez said. “We put that design on ice for now, we are trying to finalize it and that’s going to be the fab for next year. This is a car that has been taken to competition already and we’re modifying and optimizing it. We took a step back and realized if we were going to do a good job on this we needed more time for that design. So we are rolling with what’s realistic and what’s going to put our best foot forward and most competitive.

“I think our goal for the competition is to be prepared,” she said. “We have a couple of modifications we are looking to do in between now and the middle of April so making sure that our design is sound, that all of our components and members are sound, that we are going to pass tech inspection, that we are ready for our presentations, that we are ready to do the best we can do.”

In addition to the new challenges the team has faced this year, Pink Baja has teamed up with NMSU Aggies are Tough Enough to Wear Pink and Cowboys for Cancer Research to promote breast cancer awareness at the competition.

Author: Tiffany Acosta – NMSU