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September 02, 2003 - Image 44

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-09-02

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12C - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2003

STUDENT SOCIETIES STF
A PORTRAIT OF THE UM SAE

IE FOR GLORY

As I rode with Mike Michaud on May 3
to the Wilson Student Project Center, on
North Campus, the Mechanical Engineer-
ing junior tells me that he had "worked
until 10 a.m., slept for four hours, and got
up again at 2 p.m. when you called."
Michaud's lack of sleep is thanks to his
involvement with the Society of Automo-
tive Engineers Baja Team, a student group
that designs and builds off-road racing
vehicles, competing with them twice every
summer at national races. What makes the

Baja team different from other student
project teams is its rough style. Baja race
courses define "off-road," with tracks of
dirt, sand, and mud all over extreme terrain
reminiscent of those in the X-Games or
BMX competitions.
Aside from the primary purpose of
designing and building off-road racing
vehicles, the team must operate with
strict limits in funding. Cars cannot
exceed $2,500 to produce, and are
designed in CAD environments. They are

built at the Wilson Center, where the
shop provides mills, lathes, welding
equipment, a paint booth, storage space
and various other tools, all at the gen-
erosity of corporate sponsors and the
College of Engineering. Shop skills are
passed down from the experienced in a
tradition of apprenticeship, exposing stu-
dents to hands-on experience often unat-
tainable in today's engineering education.
"The car is about 300 pounds,"
explained Michaud, as teammates
worked on two brand new cars gleaming
in maize and blue. "(It's) one of the light-
est in competition. We want a light car so
it goes faster."
Elsewhere, Engineering junior Chris-
tiana Diehr watched teammate Kevin
King carefully cut stencils to be placed
on the cars. "I spend more time (here)
than I honestly should, at the expense of
everything, including school."
The team's leader, John Radecki,
paused after a test drive to reflect on his
team, his hands hardened with splinters,
cuts, and grease. "We're a family,"
Radecki said, "the team gives the project
their love and sweat"
The Baja Team left for Utah the next
day, driving non-stop in a GM-donated
truck, towing a trailer carrying their cars,
ready for competition. In preparation for
the trip, Michaud filled up canisters of
fuel for the race cars.

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