May 22, 2014 2:15PM
The north parking lot of the Kansas Technology Center was transformed Thursday morning into a scene that was part NASCAR race, part football tailgate.
Competitive vehicles were delivered in the back of large, branded trailers, above which flew the competitors’ flags. The smell of BBQ and motor oil was in the air. The sounds of Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC were blasted from large speakers.
For all of the teams on Pittsburg State’s campus this week for Baja SAE-Kansas, the experience is their opportunity to showcase their design, engineering and teamwork skills.
But it’s also about school pride. And for many, it’s about national pride.
“This is an opportunity for us to show that in Venezuela, we can do this, too,” said Kevin Linares, a student at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas.
Approximately 100 teams will compete in this weekend’s Baja competition, including 26 from overseas or across the nation’s north and south borders.
More than 1,100 competitors will participate, and they all came with a common goal: to win.
“It’s high stress sometimes, but we’re all working for the same purpose,” said Derek Hoffman, a senior at Central Michigan University. “This is an opportunity for us to work with our hands and turn the theoretical education into practical application, and we all want to do well.”
Sophomore Karl Johannes and his fellow Baja teammates at New Mexico State University said this weekend’s competition is the culmination of a lot of hard work and long roads.
“It took us about 16 hours to get here, but it’s worth it for the opportunity to drive our Baja cars and be a part of this event,” Johannes said.
Linares, whose UCAB team travelled more than 2,500 miles for Baja Kansas, said he’s also excited about networking with teams from around the world.
“It’s a great chance to share this experience with other cultures and meet people from around the world,” he said.
For most of the competitors, this is their first visit to Pittsburg State. Early on, they are already impressed by what they see.
“It’s a beautiful campus,” Johannes said. “Even though Pittsburg seems like a small town, it’s really a nice community that seems to be doing some cool things. We like it here.”
Hoffman said the Kansas Technology Center is unlike any facility he and his teammates have visited.
“This is a lot nicer than anything we have,” he said. “It’s an impressive facility and campus for a town this size. I don’t think we were quite expecting everything to be so big. You guys are doing it right here.”
Baja SAE – Kansas is set for May 22-25. The Bajas on Broadway Car Show in downtown Pittsburg, at which several of the teams will show off their competition vehicles, begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 22.
The official public opening ceremony will begin at 8 a.m. Friday, May 23, on the north side of the Kansas Technology Center. Throughout Friday, teams will participate in a variety of inspections, tests and practice runs.
Various competitive events will take place on Saturday and Sunday, including the four-hour endurance event. This event is held over a one and one half mile course that is intended to test the capabilities of each of the off-road vehicles.
More information, including a full schedule of events, is available at pittstate.edu/baja.