Car Naming and Manufacturing

Through creative methods, we finally decided upon a name for our 2017 car - and it shall be called Bongo!

Most likely a different color scheme though.

Most likely a different color scheme though.

Aside from that most important update, there's been quite a bit of welding, turning, and milling going on in the shop, as we've begun the manufacturing phase in earnest. Here's a brief look at some of the things we've done:

Trailing arms fully tacked.

Camber links in progress.

Front hubs being milled.

Bodywork molds being machined.

And some camera-shy parts: plenty of tabs being waterjetted, gearbox housing and shafts being milled and turned, aluminum pedals being milled and welded, and many other projects! Check back soon for more updates.

Is it still Blizzard if everything is melting?

In a complete 180 from the frostbite-threatening air of 2016, Blizzard Baja at this year was a summer vacation. We had a ton of fun returning to Michigan Tech regardless, and everyone got to drive around this year, even if it wasn't on the official racecourse!

"Let me adjust the settings again, there's a lot of white in there"

But backtracking to the beginning, we started out dark and early doing some final checks on Knuckles and Elbows, before passing through Tech Inspection and the infamous pickled egg dynamic event.

Waiting for Tech Inspection: even Gilly Monsters need their beauty sleep.

Waiting for Tech Inspection: even Gilly Monsters need their beauty sleep.

Before we knew it, the race was on! We were doing pretty well, switching out drivers every 3 laps for Knuckles and every 4 for Elbows.

Luke in Elbows (38) about to pass Joe in Knuckles (14).

But then - plot twist! - about an hour and a half into the race, they had to stop the cars because it was too warm and the track was turning into complete mush. The large tabletop section was still intact though, so officials had us race in a loop around the parking lot and the tabletop, and we got our remaining cats and kittens into Knuckles to take a few spins.

Newly be-whiskered!

We left tired and happy, and are excited to return next year for a hopefully moderately-frozen comp. Third time's the charm, as they say.

And thank you to the talented Amanda Nicole for her photographs! Check out her Facebook here.

Framed! and other Fall Quarter Updates

It's been a busy quarter of recruiting, designing, and welding these past few months. While we've taken on around 20 new Motorkittens, the Motorcats have simultaneously been working on their individual designs.

So far, the most outwardly visible progress has manifested in the jigging and welding of the frame. It's gone from a giant box of coped and bent tubes from Cartesian into a rear roll hoop and transformed into a fully tacked creation, all before winter break!

Armando and George persuading the rear roll hoop to fit properly.

We decided to more fully utilize Cartesian's bending abilities this year, which helped to simplify jigging.

A little Chicago winter breeze can't stop Joe.

The newest pizza delivery service, coming soon to a town near you!

Making Mayhem at Midnight

For the first time in Northwestern Baja history, the team attended the Midnight Mayhem competition hosted by Louisville Baja in Kentucky, and what a crazy day (and night) it was! Some highlights:

  • The clay that swallowed up one of our arm restraints (which will rest in KY mud forever) and doubled the diameter of our wheels
  • Elbows took 7th in maneuverability out of the 90-ish cars there
  • We got 16 (!) drivers into the seat during the endurance race, a record for the NU Baja archives
  • Elbows' back left wheel, which came off mid-turn and rolled into the depths of the KY woods at the end of endurance

It was an experience that we wouldn't have missed for the world, read on the find out more!

It was only the second weekend of school, and comp is always a great motivator for getting the cars in shipshape working order. So that's exactly what we did, even as our recruitment team was also busy getting our new members acquainted with the team.

Louisville, KY was actually the closest of the competitions that we've been to in the past few years, a mere 7 hour drive away. We arrived Friday night, and spent some time in the pits putting some bright finishing touches on the cars - brake lights (kinda important) and colorful LEDs (very important).

Elbows is ready to rumble.

Saturday dawned with no sign of the promised showers, which was good because the ground was muddy enough as it is (if there is such a thing as enough mud).

Futile mud removal attempts.

After passing Tech, we took Elbows and Knuckles over to brakes check. They both passed, although it took a couple extra tries with Knuckles.

RIP Blue Arm Restraint, which was forever lost into the inscrutable depths of the Kentucky mud. We will never forget you.

From there we moved onto the dynamic events: acceleration, maneuverability, and a motocross-style suspension.

On your marks, get set, go! Elbows (38) in the lead with Knuckles (14) following behind.

Elbows (feat. Isaac) deftly navigated his way into 7th place in the Maneuverability event!

Elbows was the favored contender in the suspension course with its better acceleration and maneuverability, and it did indeed win the first round (although Knuckles going off a small cliff helped with that). But in a bizarre twist of events that included some wooden posts being pulled up and unnecessary direction reversal, Knuckles was able to beat Elbows in the second round thanks to its highly torqued gearbox! Regardless of outcome though, it was thrilling to see two of our own cars race so closely on the track.

Head to head on the Suspension course.

After dinner and walking the track, it was soon time to grid for Endurance and the colorful chaos that involved.

University of Louisville did an awesome job with the track - there's nothing that quite compares to driving over logs and around bends in the dark while knowing there are ravines to fall down and trees to run into. Despite some quick pit stops along the way, the number of people we got to drive far exceeded our expectations. We finished the race with our 15th and 16th drivers in the seat!

Pit repair: A cluster of light and quick thinking.

And so the night ended with 21 muddy, happy Motorcats!

Full Circle - Back to Tennessee for 2016 SAE Comp

One quick eight-hour drive brought us to the land of Cookeville, Tennessee! Twenty-one team members were able to make it out to competition, including ten very excited Motorkittens who had no idea what was in store.

A few people spent a good deal of the night before Technical Inspection doing some final rules fixes, mainly on the CVT guard, but we felt good about the shape Elbows was in for the following few days.

Putting the finishing touches on Elbows in the paddocks before Tech Inspection the following morning

In fact, we had the smoothest Tech in (known) NU Baja history! However, the line was moving pretty slowly, so by the time we were halfway through our first inspection, it was time to move over to our Design Presentation slot, and we hurried over to that area. Design also went extraordinarily well, and later we learned that we tied for 21st out of 100 teams in that event. We hopped back in line for Tech after that and passed with flying colors!

Design leads talking to the judges at the Design Presentation

Design leads talking to the judges at the Design Presentation

We passed Tech and Brakes!

We passed Tech and Brakes!

Saturday was spent doing the various dynamic events - acceleration, maneuverability, sled pull, and suspension. Acceleration and maneuverability went quite well, but we ran into some issues with our sled pull and suspension events. We'd never been to a competition with a sled pull event before, and it turns out that Elbows' tow hitch is a little too low to complete the sled pull. And at the suspension event, our kill switch position was at an unfortunate location, since both of our drivers' legs hit it halfway through the course. We did get some distance points on those though!

Zooming down the acceleration lane

Zooming down the acceleration lane

Mikey and Drew expertly navigated the Maneuverability course

Mikey and Drew expertly navigated the Maneuverability course

The little engine that (almost) could!

The little engine that (almost) could!

Sunday (Endurance Day) dawned bright and sunny. Some were more ready for it than others. Many of the 'Kittens valiantly volunteered as track workers for the four hour race and had a lot of fun doing it!

Alex (foreground) looks excited for the endurance race

Alex (foreground) looks excited for the endurance race

Track workers from left to right: Chris, Blake, Spencer, Steph, Gaurav, Connor, Joe H, and Brooke

Track workers from left to right: Chris, Blake, Spencer, Steph, Gaurav, Connor, Joe H, and Brooke

We're all really proud of how competitively Elbows performed during the race. We got six drivers into the seat and had a few quick pit stops to fix brake light wiring and a dented hub, but we were on the track for the majority of the four hours. Overall, we got 47th place in the competition, up from 71st in Maryland last year!

And of course - a bucket of water for our beloved cap'n

And of course - a bucket of water for our beloved cap'n

Blizzard Baja 2016

This past weekend, 20 of our team members went up to Michigan Tech University in Houghton, MI for the annual "Blizzard Baja" competition. We brought Knuckles, and our Formula team fixed up our old car, Spot, so he came along as well. It would be the first time at winter comp for our current members, and the first time at any comp for all of our new Motorkittens.

Race day dawned bright and early and very very cold - a high of 3 degrees Fahrenheit (and that's without windchill!). 

Setting up the tent in front of the trailer, sheltering Knuckles and the team from the wind.

After some last adjustments to the shocks, wheels, and CVT guard, and we passed Tech Inspection without much trouble.

We were intrigued by the dynamic event, especially the pickled egg component. We decided Sarah and Faye would make the fastest driver change, and Karl bravely volunteered for the egg consumption.

Karlllll, eat the egg faster!

And as always, pancke making by Jared was in full swing, with some grilled cheeses being thrown into the mix this time around.

Yes, that is pancake being fed through a helmet.

Before we knew it, it was race time. Joe was up first, and we decided to switch drivers every three laps to give more people a chance to drive. After an incredibly fast 10-minute brake bleed fix, Joe was followed by Drew, Faye, Mikey, Isaac, Sarah, Eric, Alex, and Jared, which brought us to 9 drivers, 26 laps, and around 3.5 hours in the 4 hour race. At that point, a shaft in the gearbox broke, which we decided to fix back at school.

Overall, we had a blast this weekend, and are very happy with our performance! For more pictures, check out the Blizzard Baja 2016 Album and our Facebook page.

The cold never bothered us anyway

On Wednesdays (and all other days), We Weld

Mikey and Joe have been racing against the clock all winter break to get our frame welded in time for the NU Formula team to use the welding table when school starts up again. They've had a lot of help from Connor and Luke doing jigging and lathing as well!

Grab your collets, grab your 80-20, it's jigging time

In the midst of reading week and finals week,  our team was still hard at work because car building never stops! After Jon and Armando did the jigging calculations and figured out how to make reusable collets, we started an army of collet-makers! With help from Luke and Colton, they became milling experts. Here's a look at all the hours our Motorkittens put into getting the jigging ready before break:

Arduinos and Engines and Halfshafts, oh my

Another Sunday workday today! We used 5 KP (kitten-power; courtesy of Blake, Connor, Spencer, Kevin, and Peter) to tow Knuckles and carry some tools and parts over to the Autobay from North Garage.

Once we got there, Stephanie, Karen, Gideon, and Peter went at it with sockets and wrenches, disassembling the rear suspension. 

Stephanie with a two-wheeled, de-shocked Knuckles (and Karen's foot)

Stephanie with a two-wheeled, de-shocked Knuckles (and Karen's foot)

Eric, Colton, and Spencer puzzled over our poor, drowned engine (yes, too much motor oil can be too much of a good thing). 

Spencer, Colton, and Eric making progress on the engine (see Eric's face for summary)

Spencer, Colton, and Eric making progress on the engine (see Eric's face for summary)

Emily, Gaurav, and Gerardo helped Drew complete a data acquisition system for our CVT! Now we'll be able to gather much more concrete information from testing. 

Armando and Jon continued to look into jigging, Will became a tube-coping champ and a master socket-organizer, and Sebastian got some plastic ready for laser-cutting next week. And Isaac brought Peter, Gideon, and Blake back over to North Garage to take off Spot's half shafts. 

Busy busy...Will coping tubes, Alex supervising rear suspension disassembly, and Colton, Spencer, and Eric taking apart the engine.

Busy busy...Will coping tubes, Alex supervising rear suspension disassembly, and Colton, Spencer, and Eric taking apart the engine.

Good work, team!

New autobay dedication and donor recognition

We had a great evening at the opening event for our newly completed autobay in North Garage! Thanks to the generosity of the Ford Motor Company, Altec Industries, 3M, and alumni, we and the Formula and Solar teams now have a wonderful new space to work in. 

From left to right: Joe Hinrichs ( Executive Vice President and President of the Americas for Ford Motor Company), Mikey Diamond (Baja), Dean Julio Ottino, Tiernan Murrell (Formula), and Spencer (Solar)

From left to right: Joe Hinrichs (Executive Vice President and President of the Americas for Ford Motor Company), Mikey Diamond (Baja), Dean Julio Ottino, Tiernan Murrell (Formula), and Spencer (Solar)

We're ready. Are you?

We're ready. Are you?

Baja meets journalism continued, starring Mickey

Ethan Cohen of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism did a piece on our very own beloved Project Manager, Mickey Cotter.

It’s hard to explain about Mickey - everything that comes out of his mouth, even the most mundane stuff, is very funny.
— Joe Burke

Goofy elements aside, he's the one who's been managing our finances and purchasing this year, making building a racecar possible. Thanks Mickey! Check out the finished product below.

Got a lot of goofy people...definitely need those to keep our whole family dynamic.
— Mickey Cotter

Ford funds new team trailer

Ford Motor Company has generously donated a new trailer for the Baja and Formula SAE teams. Previously, we had been sharing a trailer with NU Solar, but now with this new one, scheduling around competitions between the three teams will be much easier. 

We got to work covering the floor with waterproof epoxy:

Mikey putting the finishing touches on the trailer flooring

Mikey putting the finishing touches on the trailer flooring

There's already been a couple of Home Depot shopping sprees (it's really just like kids in a candy store). Soon enough, that empty space will be filled with cabinets and all kind of tools.

Thanks a lot, Ford!

Campus Slaloming

It was a whirlwind workday on Saturday, with quite literally all hands on deck. John in welding mode putting together the rear suspension and attaching the gas pedal, Joe making sure the gas pedal has enough support, Ben bleeding brakes, Sarah mounting the gas tank, Eric and Matt finger-proofing the CVT guard, Jared finishing up the foam seat, Faye doing the headrest, the kittens helping out everywhere they were needed, and Mikey running around making sure it all got done so Knuckles would be in full driving condition....phew!

And sure enough, we got him in working order, so a couple of us took Knuckles out for a little spin on the slopes (well, as sloped as Illinois gets) next to Lake Michigan. Some improv flashlights lit up a path between the tree trunks as we took turns testing out the feel of Knuckles 2.0 in preparation for going to the Cliffs tomorrow!


Blizzard Baja 2015 decisions

The very morning of the day we were planning to be leaving for Houghton, MI and Blizzard Baja, we had to make the very difficult call to stay on campus and not compete.

Rewinding to the past few months of improving Knuckles' design, the past few weeks of countless hours in the shop, we all had the end goal in mind of racing at this competition. It culminated into furious work the night before (and into the morning), as we were putting what we thought would be the final adjustments on the assembly and loading up the trailer in the frigid weather. However, in the morning, we realized that a combination of issues including a broken rear bearing and deflated shocks would most likely prevent us from racing even if we did make the 7 hour drive north.

This definitely came as a disappointment for everyone who has put so much heart and time into trying to make Winter Comp happen, but it will give us time to recuperate and catch up on sleep. And now we know exactly what to focus on, and will be more ready than ever for the upcoming spring competition in May.