Yes. After halfway through our six day weekend, we finally hit Saturday. And it hit us back.

We started a little late and missed our first call to the technical inspections by five minutes. We waited in the drizzling rain for 3 1/2 hours trying to pass tech. Somehow, our drip pan was the only thing that kept us from passing. Everything else was great! Good work last night, everybody. By the time we got our beautiful shiny tech inspection stickers, the sun was out and the dust was drying out the dirt to make it a humid, dusty, mess.

Drizzly weather for a tech inspection

Drizzly weather for a tech inspection

With our new tech sticker, we went back to our trailer to work on the brakes. We thought we had them balanced ok and ran the car out to the brake test – around 1/4 mile across a bumpy field, pushing the car because you aren’t allowed to run your car before you pass the brake inspection. Thus, when we didn’t pass the brake test, we had to shove the car all the way back to the pits, and then all the way back again once we had it fixed.  When we went back the last time, we ran. Ben, our brakes expert and the lightest driver on the team, rode and the remainder of the team took shifts pushed the car at top speed back out to the test track with only 10 minutes to spare before the test center closed for the rest of comp. But then, there we were. Ben jumped out and Mike in full safety gear hopped in in record time, and we passed! We made it. We can compete.

But four of the five dynamic events were about to close in 5 minutes. RUN!!! Now that we were allowed to drive the car across the competition center, Ben and Jane ran alongside the car to the acceleration test track. We were able to run the test twice before they closed down and we had to walk to car back to the pit, sweating and burning in the hot Kansas sun yet so happy we're able to compete in the endurance race tomorrow.

Track walk. At 5:30 there was a final meeting with the event coordinators (hooray for the volunteers!!!) and then everyone got to walk through the track for the endurance course. It doesn’t look too bad. Kansas is pretty flat after all. No creeks. No trees. Lots of jumps, telephone poles, and bulldozer dug trenches. We’ll see how we do tomorrow.

Tonight we made the very difficult decision to let the seniors race tomorrow. We wanted all of the freshmen to race – they’ve earned it. But so did the seniors. And tomorrow, Will, Mike and Jane will take their last laps as Northwestern Baja members. Let’s hope it’s awesome!!!

Friday in Kansas

Happy Friday! It was a brutally early start for John, Mike, and Mickey. They got up at 4 AM to get us an early spot in the governor inspection line with Briggs and Stratton. The rest of the team arrived with doughnuts several hours later… after the sun had come up. We rolled right through the first inspection, and Ben, who got here late last night, was there to check out our brakes before we went to the next one.

We fixed up a few weak spots on the car, and headed to the garage for our design presentation. We had a powerpoint documenting some of the analysis and design processes we used to build Knuckles; the judges seemed interested. Then we split up – four team members each with a judge grilling them about one area of the car or another. Last year we stumbled to explain that we hadn’t actually built the car ourselves*; this year, we pulled out pages of calculations and graphs to explain the logic behind our car. I think it went swimmingly.

This afternoon was a little less glorious. We rolled up to the garage a second time to complete our technical inspection around 3. This inspection may prove to be the most stressful part of my year. Just as it was last year. The judges measure every dimension of the frame, check every edge, nut and bolt, and zip tie for compliance with the rules. With some whirlwind calculations from Mike, and a little jostling from John, we made it through with only a few minor changes to make to the car. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the truck, all hands on deck flying, to get the changes made. Unfortunately, the inspections closed before our number was called again, so we’ll be first (11th) in line tomorrow!!

Overall, it was a beautiful hot day, and we made lots of friends with our neighboring teams. Senior Will Worden’s parents came down from Iowa to see us today as well as Mr. Taseff, our Chief Engineer John’s dad, who flew in from California. Mr. Taseff treated us to an avocado-filled dinner at Chili’s which all the kids greatly enjoyed.

Right now, I’m typing this in a camp chair in a field that sounds like the inside of a generator, smells like grass, and is littered with trucks, trailers, and sleepy engineers trying to finish their necessary alterations before Tech inspections open at 8 AM tomorrow. We hope to pass Tech early, get through the brake test, and jet on to the dynamic events!


*Spot, the car we raced last year, was mostly built by older Baja students who left the team before it was race worthy. We finished the car and brought it to comp, but without an understanding for the design process, and certainly without any documentation of it. We scored 20/200 points in the design presentation last year.

First day at comp

Pack up!! On Tuesday night we were up in the auto bay packing and finishing up Knuckles until midnight. We got him all prim and proper with shiny new carbon panels, numbers, and a pretty indestructible CVT guard. Hopefully the judges agree. Then we took knuckles for a little joy ride and packed him into the trailer. The solar car team lent us their 20 ft trailer which was already outfitted with tool chests and shelves, a huge step up from our tiny trailer. We borrowed their lights and generator which allowed us to bring the welder, drill press, grinders, and a bunch of other tools which last year we had to borrow from other teams. This year is a whole new game. We know what SAE is up to and we’re prepared with tools and a car that will hopefully pass tech inspection with ease.

We all arrived in Pittsburg last night between the hours of 12 and 2 AM. The drive took us over 14 hours – there might be worm holes between Chicago and Kansas. Drivers be warned. After a healthy four hours of sleep, we got back into the truck and drove to the Kansas Technology Center.  We arrived at 8 AM, but it seems most people got there way before that. The first 30 cars were already lined up for the Briggs and Stratton governor test, which means we have to wait until tomorrow to start tech. We got a great pit assignment – number 40.  We’re right on the edge of the parking lot next to a tree where we plan to hang up our hammock tomorrow.

The newly christened Solar trailer parked at our pit location

The newly christened Solar trailer parked at our pit location

Our biggest tasks today were getting the team registered, picking up all 25 of our free t-shirts, and getting through the business presentation – 50 points. The business presentation was a new event, and some of the freshmen really took charge of working out a powerpoint slide show and all of the best selling points on the car. They killed the presentation and handled the judges' questions without any problems. We’ll see how the scores come out, but I think we’re all winners here.

The afternoon was spend sleeping and playing cards before a monstrously delicious BBQ dinner. Tomorrow holds the design presentation – 200 pts – and a lot of standing in lines waiting to get through tech. Hopefully there won’t be thunder storms.