June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.137.1 - 22.137.9
Active Learning through SAE Baja CompetitionActive learning is described as finding ways of engaging students in the learning process toimprove the results of the process. Active learning has become popular as an organizedmethodology in engineering education in the last few years. It is an important approach toprepare better engineers. Competitions, course projects sponsored by industry, capstone projects,laboratory exercises simulating real-life scenarios, case study and film reviews, service andundergraduate research projects as well as internships and cooperative experiences can all becounted as examples of active learning in engineering education. Engineering students learnmore effectively and retain better by dialoguing with self and others, observing, and doing.Role play, project management, marketing, developing team interpersonal and technical skillsare only a few of the perks actively engaged students enjoy. This paper will focus on learningthrough competitions, and especially the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) BajaCompetition.The SAE Baja competition requires engineering students to design and build a single-seat allterrain or off-road vehicle. There are three different regional events for this annual competitionin North America, not all of them requiring the water event. At the three-day regionalcompetitions, teams are judged first through inspection for aesthetics, safety, manufacturability,serviceability, structural integrity, ergonomics, and their cost and design report for thedevelopment process. The second element of the competition is based on performance eventssuch as acceleration, maximum speed, breaking, climbing, weight pulling, and maneuverability.The final component is a four-hour race over an off-road course including hills, moguls, jumps,sand, mud, and possibly water. All teams must follow the SAE Baja rule book while designing,and use an identical 10 HP 305 cc Briggs and Stratton engine. Since all the vehicles need to usethe same engine, chassis, drive train, suspension, braking, and other design factors becomeimportant for winning this competition.At the author’s institution the SAE group took two years to prepare for their first competition.Since then two more cars have been built with mixed results. Main improvement has been thedevelopment of a better car. In the last two years mechanical and manufacturing students wereinvolved in the effort. Challenges up-to-date have led to strong learning experiences in vehicledesign, especially in computer-aided design (CAD) and mechanical design, manual andcomputer-numeric controlled (CNC) machining, welding, and assembly operations. The studentsalso gained invaluable experiences in leadership, team building and interpersonal skills,communications, project management with planning, scheduling, and resource management, andmarketing as they promoted their project in search of sponsors. This paper will draw a clearpicture of the active learning experience of the SAE Baja team at the author’s institution whilepresenting the positive and the negative. The paper will be concluded with future improvementideas.
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