Students take poll position at Mini-Baja competition

The Sasol Mini Baja is a competition where engineering students from various tertiary institutions design, plan, build and test a prototype four-wheeled, single-seater, off-road recreational vehicle. They also have to raise the necessary sponsorship and manage the project over nine months.

Then the students and their vehicles compete in a two-day test that includes static adjudication and performance testing on Friday. The defining moment came on Saturday when teams took their vehicles through a gruelling four-hour endurance on a 1.6km track over an extremely rough terrain.

Many trophies and a total prize money of R10 000 was at stake in many different categories. This year saw the participation of 28 teams from South Africa, India, Qatar and Iran. The team from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology emerged as the overall winner of this year's competition. The University of Pretoria’s team won first prize for design and in the static judging.Best performance and endurance went to Tswhane University of Technology.

The competition started at the University of South Carolina in the USA in 1976 and has become a international event since its inception in South Africa in 1996. The competition has been running in South Africa for the last 13 years.

This year, the University of Pretoria decided to invite learners from secondary schools as a way of encouraging them to take up engineering as a career.

“This is an excellent opportunity to get an idea of what engineering is all about and what mechanical engineers can achieve. Competitions such as these can really help learners make the correct career choices ,” said Schalk Els, associate professor at the University’s Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering and also the organiser of the Sasol Mini Baja Challenge.

The South African universities participating in this year’s competition were:

University of Pretoria; Cape Peninsula University of Technology; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; University of Johannesburg; Central University of Technology; Vaal University of Technology; University of the Witwatersrand; and the Tshwane University of Technology, overall winner in 2007.

Baja challenge

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