A first-hand report by Roberto Taddeo, project co-ordinator:
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) holds annual competitions that bring together schools from all over North America, and every year, students in Concordia's chapter of SAE take part in the design and manufacture of a vehicle.
The 1999 Mini-Baja competition was held at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, challenging engineering students to design and build an off-road vehicle that would survive rough terrain, including water. The idea is to test students on planning and manufacturing tasks, and develop their teamwork -- all skills they will need in the work force.
On May 4, the "Rat Pack" left Montreal on a 28-hour trip to represent Concordia. The Pack was made up of Robert Longo, François Perron, Tony Santos, Danny Di Schiavi, Pio D'Andrea, Denny O'Breham, Alex Longo, Mario De Cicco and me. Nicholas Auger also contributed, although he was unable to make the trip.
Forty-four teams were registered and the competition lasted three days. It was an experience that we will always remember when thinking back to our days at Concordia University: competing with the vehicle we worked so hard to put together and meeting students from all over the U.S., Canada and Quebec.
The first day, dedicated to the static judging of the vehicles, was tough. The judges requested modifications to the vehicle, so the team worked all day, cutting, welding, disassembling, reassembling and driving around Orlando looking for parts. We didn't leave the university parking lot until 11 p.m.
The second day was also a busy one, with competitions to test the performance and durability of the cars. The Concordia team placed second in acceleration, one of eight events. The last one was the infamous mud bog, in which the Rat Pack finished first.
The final day was the most rigorous. Teams competed in an endurance race -- four hours of exhausting racing and pure adrenaline rush. It was held on a track designed to test and basically destroy the cars. It started with the cars heading into the water, and then attacking mountainous terrain that included a 60-degree inclined drop.
Concordia was looking good until driver Robert Longo had to swerve to avoid debris on the track, and broke down. The car was in the middle of the forest, but the Pack pulled together and refused to quit. After two hours of welding, running, looking for material and cutting, and with the help of other students, they got the vehicle back on track.
Many schools didn't complete the endurance race. Thanks to unity and hard work, Concordia finished the endurance race in 17th position, and achieved a final overall standing of 12th place, a credit to all the hard work put in by all team members -- not only on the competition weekend, but during the school year. Thanks also go to our financial sponsors, the Concordia SAE, the Engineering and Computer Science Students Association and the gang from the machine shop.
The 2000 teams are also starting to come together, and the SAE is looking to send teams in the Baja, Formula, Super Mileage and Air Cargo divisions. So don't be shy if you're an engineering student or just enjoy working in a group and are looking for something different.