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NYU Tandon Students Build an All-Terrain Vehicle from the Ground Up

The NYU Tandon Motorsports team unveiled their 2018 design, which will compete at SAE Baja Maryland on April 19-22.

Last year for the first time in school history, a group of students participated in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja competition. In Baja SAE, as the competition is known, engineering students are tasked with designing and building a prototype for a single-seat, all-terrain sporting vehicle that must be reliable, easily maintained, ergonomic, and economic. Calling their group NYU Tandon Motorsports, the students pitted themselves against university teams from around the world in a series of exercises that culminated in a punishing four-hour endurance race over muddy terrain strewn with obstacles, to test the design, reliability, and speed of their vehicle.

This year, the team is back, even bigger and better. On April 13, at a festive event in the MakerSpace, they unveiled their new and improved vehicle, which they will race in Maryland in April and Oregon later in the year.

Equipped with the 10 horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine that every team is required to use in order to start the competition with a level playing field, the vehicle took four months to build. Painted a cheerful NYU violet, this year’s version is over 100 pounds lighter — yet more structurally sound — than last year’s.

The 2018 design for the NYU Tandon Motorsports SAE Baja vehicle.

The 2018 design for the NYU Tandon Motorsports SAE Baja vehicle.

The team members assert that the design and building process, while exacting, is also a lot of fun. “Engineering is just arts and crafts for big kids!” says Rachel Stolzman, the student who serves as the project’s director of engineering. That sentiment could be taken literally from time to time; on the team blog, they quipped: “Imagine a bunch of college kids sitting in a room competing against each other in groups to make cars out of toilet paper rolls, straws, paperclips and rubber bands and race them on a rubber track. We literally did this in one of our meetings. That’s what it’s like on the team: big kids making stuff and having fun, just with fire and metal and dangerous tools. (It’s okay  . . . we know what we’re doing.)” They are not exaggerating about the fire, metal, and tools; one of the most fascinating parts of the process for many of the students is learning to weld.

Their colorful prototype drew gasps of appreciation at the unveiling — it’s not every day, you see a full-sized ATV parked at Jacobs, after all. As their races approach, everyone at Tandon will be cheering them on (at least from the virtual sidelines). 

NYU Tandon Motorsports will be competing in Baja SAE Maryland April 19-22