Live updates from Baja SAE: Day 1

The day began rather dismally with some of the team members not being allowed to enter the premises of the event owing to lack of I-cards. Mahesh Tikone (Baba) played the savior by ‘strategically’ arranging I-cards for the entire team.
Having prepped the car for the static events lined up for the day, Kaptaan Harshad Kunte was interviewed by a Hindi news channel. Questions like “Aisi pratiyogitayon mein bhaag lene se aapke career pe kya fayda hota hain?” were tackled with rather surprisingly fluent responses!
The car proceeded towards the weighbridge and Prithvi 3.0 recorded a weight of 241.5 kg without the driver (who weighs another massive 73 kg). Banking on some uncertainty, we were announced to be the lightest car at the event for the day; let’s hope we don’t have to face a lighter car! Highlight of the day was the ever-cheering presence of Mirik Gogri. His enthusiasm kept us going through the adversities for the day!
Following weight, we proceeded for the static events which include the following:
  1. Innovation: The electronics team sold their idea extremely well –implemented low cost 2 way telemetry system (inspired from Formula 1) as its innovation. Facing 3 judges from industry, we spent approximately 45 minutes explaining to them the year long effort that had gone into its development.  After heated discussions, one of the the judges was yet of the opinion that the idea was ‘inspired’ and not ‘original’. We were given a second chance to come up with a monetizable commercial application using our ‘inspired’ idea. After much brainstorming, Pudi thought of a revolutionary ‘Intelligent CVT-tuning system” which was sold to the judges with much proficiency. We left the innovation stage satisfied with one of the foreign judge and commenting  “I didn’t think they could come up with a commercial application so soon!”.
  2. Build quality and craftsmanship: Prithvi 3.0 was applauded to be one of the best built cars by the judges.
  3. Steering Suspension & Brakes: This was judged by Mr. Behram Dhabar, Ex Technical Head, Baja SAE India and Mr. Tagare. Dhabar Sir is known for his rigour in questioning the team on vehicle design parameters. Suspension team (Sonam, Mudit, Murali & DC) did a good job of presenting the designs and validation experiments conducted.  We left this stage with Dhabar Sir commenting “I like the effort you have put into design and documentation”. Murali was observed to be explaining some design parameters with his arms around the shoulders of one of the junior judges! Style statement as they call it 😛
  4. Power train: The powertain team (Gopal, Shanu, Vallari, Lalla) have successfully managed to incorporate a clutchless CVT and a custom FNR gearbox in Prithvi 3.0. Prithvi 2.0 was one of the first teams to implement a CVT following which we observed quite a few CVT teams this year. The judges were convinced that the 3 month testing conducted has resulted in a reliable and robust powertrain. They were also impressed of the cross-disciplinary use of electronics for tuning of the CVT. Shanu managed to break the ice with one of the judges who got pally with him and started showing him some latest developments in IC Engines on his laptop! We left this stage with a “Very Good” remark on the evaluation form!
  5. Chassis & Rollcage design: Bubbling with enthusiasm, DJ was observed to dish out numbers of CAE analysis of the chassis to the judge. Little did he realize that he had his glares on while doing so! Halfway into the design justification he smiles, takes off his sexy glares and continues with the discussion. Manjhi in his extremely cool, yet NBD demeanor left no stone unturned in conveying the complex dynamic analysis, modal analysis, torsional rigidity validation experiments that were conducted. All in all it was an eventful evaluation. One of the judge however took pride in taking our case over random issues.
  6. Cost Report : Apurv’s detail of documentation fetched us yet another “good” remark!
  7. Marketing Presentation: We came up with a start-up worthy B-plan for selling 4000 Prithvi 3s. We almost received VC funding for the same!

Acceleration run:
We recorded a run time of 6.9 secs on the 150ft patch. As of now we stand 2nd to College of Engineering, Pune with a runtime of 6.5 secs. The acceleration run will decide our grid position.

Hill climb:
The car performed brilliantly on the near 45 deg incline. On a course that saw a lot of teams failing to make it to the top of the hill climb patch, our CVT proved to be a winner on the terrain.
Prithvi  3.0 was chosen to be displayed amongst 5 teams at the innaugral ceremony of SAE India Baja 2012. Amidst all paparazzi, the car was surveyed by bigshots in the auto industry and received good reviews.

That’s all for now.Updates on the maneuverability event tomorrow. The course looks nasty!
Prateek Sharma, Senior Undergraduate