Unusual Season No Deterrent to Terps Racing

Each year, participants in the A. James Clark School of Engineering’s award-winning Terps Racing program dedicate their time to designing, building, testing, and racing Formula-style racecars and Baja-style off road vehicles in a series of collegiate competitions. In 2020, things were a little different.

“The season was definitely flipped on its head,” said Baja Team Captain Abby Meyer. “But our teams adapted, and we still saw a lot of success.”

Events this season were virtual, with teams logging in to online platforms to demonstrate their capabilities in static areas such as design, cost, and sales presentation. Though no races could be held—and performance categories such as acceleration, endurance, maneuverability and traction were not measured--the ingenuity and effort required to achieve high-performance results were very much in evidence.

Some events opted not to rank teams. The Baja SAE competition did, however—and Terps Racing finished fourth, with 270.61 points. UMD also participated in this year’s Formula event (not ranked), earning a 20/20 rating in the cost category.

"Running a team virtually was not easy, but the leadership and level of effort the team displayed preparing for this was impressive and results showed it paid off."

Baja team faculty advisor Scott Schmidt

"I was incredibly impressed by the team’s ability to not let the cancellation of the dynamic (racing) events diminish their efforts on the remaining events,” said Baja team faculty advisor Scott Schmidt. "Running a team virtually was not easy, but the leadership and level of effort the team displayed preparing for this was impressive and results showed it paid off. It is times like these that make my job as the team advisor truly rewarding and energize me to help the team achieve bigger/better things next year."

With an eye to long-term goals, the teams dedicated some of their time this season to making improvements to existing vehicles, and the Baja team completed a brand-new all-wheel-drive redesign, with few carry-over parts from past incarnations.

In the coming year, for the first time, the Baja and Formula teams will both pursue a two-year design cycle. They will continue to make improvements on the current cars—already a year into development, with the hope of racing them in June 2021—while also building a new car for each team that will be raced in June 2022. “This will improve overall designs and allow for more testing time and practice with our vehicles,” said Meyer, who will continue as Baja team captain. Wes Nicholson will be taking over as Formula Team captain from Jessica Rosenthal, who graduated in May and now works for an electric car start-up called Rivian.

More than 120 UMD students participate in Terps Racing each year, striving to design and build cars that will endure rough, punishing terrain. In the process, they gain experience in hands-on engineering, team building and collaboration, project management, marketing, and much more. The program is sponsored by Northrop Grumman, Leidos, Boeing, the Washington DC Section of SAE, and generous alumni and local businesses. To learn more and give, visit racing.umd.edu.

Published August 4, 2020