Lamar University mechanical engineering students enter national competition with off-road car they designed, built and tested.

Seven Lamar University mechanical engineering students will spend the next few days testing an off-road vehicle they designed and built against the best efforts of engineering students from across the country and beyond.

LU’s mini baja team is one of 100 teams from five countries scheduled to compete in the Society of Automotive Engineers Collegiate Design Series – Baja SAE Alabama competition hosted by Auburn University from Thursday through Sunday. The competition is one of three around the country organized by SAE International to simulate the challenge of real-world design projects.

LU team members are Josh Durham of Bridge City, Tyler Hamilton of Nederland, Jeremey Hayes of Fannett, Cody Heironimus of Fannett, Brent Klima of Vidor, Jeff Ratliff of Lumberton and Caleb Riu of Port Neches, all senior mechanical engineering majors. Their faculty advisers are Kendrick Aung, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Jenny Zhou, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

The LU team took on the challenge of designing and building their mini baja car for the competition as their senior project. They spent the fall semester designing the vehicle and the spring semester building and testing it. The project also required the students to perform a detailed cost analysis and to secure sponsors to cover construction costs. With donations and discounts, the team was able to build the car for $6,000. However, their cost analysis indicated the car would cost $14,000 if all parts were bought on the open market.

All cars in the competition are required to use the same type of 10-horsepower engine, akin to the engine in a riding lawnmower, team members said. Everything else – from the metal frame to the drive train – was designed and built by the team.

“It’s like a go-cart on steroids,” Klima said.

The car, which runs on ordinary unleaded gasoline, posted top speeds of 40 mph in testing before leaving for Alabama on Wednesday. The car will undergo a series of inspections on Friday.

On Saturday and Sunday, team members will compete in categories including acceleration, traction, maneuverability, suspension and endurance.