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BAJA: Engineers get creative

Several student competitions give undergraduates a chance to design and build vehicles for intercollegiate races. Bhavya Dore reports.

mumbai Updated: Oct 29, 2012 02:15 IST
Bhavya Dore

It took a faulty engine and gear box to end Jaykishan Choksi's dreams last year. When it was time for cars to vroom their way past the starting line at the Baja SAE Competition for student-built cars in Indore, the Sardar Patel College of Engineering team's car sputtered and failed. Now the team has a chance to redeem itself and is working on rectifying their errors from last year.

The Mahindra Baja SAE India will take place next February, and city teams are in the thick of designing cars for the annual student race car event. As Formula 1 fever winds down this weekend, it is anything but over for city students busy tinkering with car designs and model manufacturing.

"The joy of building a vehicle is something quite different," said Choksi, who plans to do a masters in automobile engineering. "To design something from scratch is quite exciting."

The budget for these vehicles could go up to Rs 3 lakh, with money culled through sponsorships or personal funds. "In our course all the knowledge that we get is theoretical," said Saurabh Kale, 20, a Dirt Crusaders team member of Don Bosco Institute of Technology. "We decided to enter this competition to get some practical experience. It's exciting but we are also a bit nervous since this is our first time. We don't know how it will turn out."

IIT-Bombay students, whose team won a prize at last year's event will not be taking part this year. However, they are already brainstorming for their entry to the student F1 competition in the UK next year.

This time too, they plan to build an electricity-powered car at an estimated cost of Rs 15 lakhs. Designing will end in November, manufacturing by January and then four months to test the vehicle.

"It is our passion for motor sports which keeps us going," said Pratik Chinchole, 22, a metallurgy engineering student and a member of the 60-member unit.

Even non-engineering students have had brushes with motor sporting excitement.

Last weekend a two-member team from St Andrew's College in Bandra with a BMS background built a miniature remote-controlled car that came third in the Red Bull racing competition.

The competition featured 168 teams in all, with the Mumbai finalists up against six others in the national round last week.

"After seeing the cars of some of the other colleges we were pretty scared," said Rhett Rego, 20. "But coming third is pretty good."