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Lehigh Formula and Baja SAE teams hold inaugural auto showcase

Lehigh University's Baja and Formula SAE teams celebrated the end of the 2016-17 school year with the first annual unveiling of its race cars in front of the University Center.

"The main reason for this event was to raise awareness of both the Baja and Formula SAE clubs on campus," said Baja SAE Captain Justin Gaukler '18. "Most students don't even know that these clubs exist at Lehigh, and we want to ensure that these groups continue to thrive."

After a few years of inactivity, Gaukler credits mechanical engineering and Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) student Jonathan Whitcraft '17 with bringing Lehigh Baja back to life.

"In 2012, the team did pretty well but was very senior-heavy, forcing the group's discontinuation," explained Gaukler. "Jonathan decided he was going to revive the club with the goal of building a car and getting the team into competition."

Last year, Whitcraft succeeded, forming a club that built a vehicle in time for the 2016 East Region Baja SAE Competition in Rochester, New York.

"With basically zero experience," said Gaukler, "we built a car and ended up placing 54th out of 98 teams, which we were pretty proud of. We learned a lot and applied a lot of changes to our car in hopes of putting us in a position to do well this year."

Lehigh Baja will be busy this spring, heading to an event in Kansas on May 25 before headed to another competition on June 7 in Illinois. Teams participate in a number of static and dynamic events, including the highly anticipated four-hour endurance race, where each car aims to stay on an obstacle-covered track for the entire duration without any issues.

The unversity's Formula SAE team will seek similar success this month at the annual FSAE competiton in Michigan. For the 25th consecutive year, Lehigh will be one of 120 teams at Michigan International Speedway partipating in autocross and endurance events.

"There are several of events around the world, but the biggest one is in Michigan," said Chris Johns '17, Lehigh Formula SAE Captain. " We'll be competing against teams from over 20 countries. We had a blast building this car and can't wait to put it to the test."

The FSAE experience allows students to become familiar with the complete progression of a product, from initial concept to manufacturing and assembly. The exposure the students get from developing the prototype vehicle helps guide them in the application of engineering principles, business decisions, as well as its relationship with its suppliers.

Like Baja, Formula SAE's club is comprised of engineering and non-engineering students, including individuals from the Colleges of Arts and Science and Business and Economics.

"These are projects that involve a lot of finance, marketing and communications, "explains Gaukler. "We think a passionate student from any major could get involved and easily make a big impact on one of these teams."

Both Gaukler and Johns acknowledged that neither squad would be successful without the support of their advisors and sponsors.

"Everyone on both teams will tell you that just being part of these clubs is a big part of their experience at Lehigh," Gaukler said. "We think it helps a lot to prepare us for life and career following graduation."

May 4, 2017

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