Auburn Off-Road has been active on Auburn’s campus since the mid ‘70s. Every year, this tightly-knit group of students designs, builds and competes with a car that is created from scratch.
While the members are primarily engineering majors, Zach Pace, the team’s co-captain, said it is not a requirement to join the team. Pace said there is always work to be done and someone willing to teach those who may not know as much.
Auburn Off-Road has a typical development cycle that lasts around 9 months. Starting in August, the team begins to make designs of the car, sometimes using last year’s car as a model.
Towards mid-to-late October, the team starts the building and construction of the physical car, aiming to have a rolling car by E-Day, the annual open house for the College of Engineering, and a drivable car by spring break.
“We don’t always meet those goals, and there’s other [goals] within those, but [those are] the big ones,” Pace said.
After the team is happy with the car, they begin the final phase of the year: going to competitions. Within these competitions, the team participates in both static and dynamic events.
Static events can be presenting a sales pitch to a panel of industry professionals who are engineers at large companies. There’s also a design review of the cars, where each team has to defend and support their individual design of the car.
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Dynamic events can be either individual or multi-car events. The individual events range from acceleration, suspension, traction and many more, while the multi-car event is a four hour endurance race.
While the terrain varies due to the geographic location of the competition, the endurance race involves cars from 99 other teams, with drivers switching out as needed.
Historically, Auburn Off-Road has done well at these events, placing in the top 10 multiple times. In 2015, they placed 6th overall, with a 5th place in the Hill Climb and Maneuverability category, and 3rd in Acceleration.
Recently, though, the team has struggled with funding and member retention. Right now, they have around 15 consistent members.
One of the biggest problems that Auburn Off-Road struggles with is the passage of knowledge onto underclassmen.
“All of the officers and senior members of the team are juniors and seniors,” Pace said. “When they graduate, if they didn’t pass on the knowledge … [the newer members] are figuring it out for themselves. You can’t really grow if you’re having to start over every year.”
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