Conestoga news

August 23, 2013 1:13 PM

Students take their love of racing off-road

Andrew Kuret's eyes shine when he talks about his baja buggy. Obviously a labour of love for the Conestoga student, the vehicle sits in the workshop, its blue tubular frame and beefy wheels ready for the next competition.

Kuret, a third-year student in the Bachelor of Engineering - Mechanical Systems Engineering program, has been working with a team of Conestoga students for almost a year on the wide-wheeled, off-road buggy, designing and building each of the parts that go into making the vehicle work. Members of the group COBRA (Conestoga Off-road Baja Racing Association), they spend much of their free time testing their vehicle at Conestoga's Engineering and Information Technology campus in Cambridge.

The COBRA group competes in events that are sanctioned by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and technical experts who promote life-long learning and standards development in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industry.

The Baja SAE series provides student members with opportunities to complete real-world engineering challenges and test the strength and durability of their vehicles in competitions against student teams from around the world.

Although the Conestoga team bested well-known engineering schools from both Canada and the United States at a competition recently held in Rochester, New York, Kuret knows there is still work to be done in order to shave some weight off the car and gain some speed at future competitions.

"We still have some modifications to make that we realized after we raced, but overall we are on the right track," said Kuret.

Students have spent their evenings and weekends building the buggy using the tools in various shops on campus. Aside from a few specialized components and the paint job, every part of the vehicle was made in-house by the students.

According to Roger Enns, the current faculty advisor for the project, students develop much of the knowledge to complete the complex processes required for building a working off-road vehicle through their coursework at Conestoga.

"Much of the preparation for this project is students using the theory we teach them in class to build this car," said Enns. "Several students even use the build project as their technical elective requirement in their Mechanical Systems Engineering program."

For Kuret, the Rochester competition helped the team assess their performance and recognize potential improvements for the vehicle.

"We definitely over-built some components. We designed them not to break and so they are heavy," he said. "But with some modifications, we can definitely achieve even better results with the vehicle."

The team hopes to make the necessary modifications to the vehicle over the next few months and enter it into several more competitions before the end of the school year.

Once the competitions wrap up, the vehicle will be stripped down and rebuilt to train the next team of engineers and mechanics. Eventually it will be sold to a team member for recreational use.

For more information and photos of the vehicle, visit the COBRA website.