TAMIL NADU

Championing innovative drive

DRIVE: Engineering students at Dr. M.G.R. University in Chennai retool components for the race car for a national-level championship scheduled in Madhya Pradesh for next month.

DRIVE: Engineering students at Dr. M.G.R. University in Chennai retool components for the race car for a national-level championship scheduled in Madhya Pradesh for next month.  

M. Dinesh Varma

Students put together dream machine for “JK Tyre SAE India 2009”

CHENNAI: Imagine zany car races of the video game kind in a real-life construct, and you are pretty close to figuring out the Indian version of Baja, Mexico’s famed off-road endurance championship where cars have to navigate rocks, sand, logs, steep inclines and muddy swamps.

For the past few months, mechanical engineering students in colleges in and around Chennai have been burning the midnight oil to put together a dream machine for the championship.

The “JK Tyre SAE India 2009,” known in automotive circles as the mini-Baja, has been scheduled at the National Automotive Test Tracks (NATRAX) facility of the National Automative Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project in Pithampur between January 30 and February 1. The event is hosted by the Automotive Research Association of India.

The 2009 edition has a strong South Indian representation - college teams in the southern States account for 24 of the 59 short-listed institutions.

“The competition serves purposes such as inculcating the spirit of engineering /innovation, safety consciousness, costing and team work,” Mathew Oommen, General Manager (Product Development), Ford India, and spokesman for Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), India, told The Hindu.

Ford is sponsoring Team Garuda, a 13-member group at Dr. M.G.R. University in Maduravoyal. Several industry majors are pitching in with sponsorships - from Mahindra and Mahindra (transmission systems) to BPCL (fuel) and Lombardini India (11 HP petrol engines).

Third year and fourth year mechanical engineering students at the college have been on the project for the past several months. From the drawing board, the project went through the works – handle-bar steering system, power train, suspensions, bucket-seat for the driver, ergonomic designing and ATV tubeless tyres with a 2.4 m tilt radius.

“Safety was a common denominator across design and assembly cycles of the all-terrain car,” said Anshuman, who leads Team Garuda.

Even if the 240-kg vehicle overturns at breakneck speed, the steel tube roll cage flanking the single-seater has been designed to shield the driver from any harm.

The team had to work within the constraints of the guidelines issued by SAE. “Several components were sourced from the local markets, borrowed from two-wheelers or retooled to fit the specifications,” said Mobin Joseph.

It was 1 a.m. on November 1 when the car was ready for the test drive. Naman, who will drive at the championship, went behind the wheels once again for a snap demonstration. Mr. Oommen pointed out that it took three to four years even for a company like Ford to put out a new design. “The prototypes designed by the students match a real car part-for-part and system-for-system.”

Recommended for you