KLAMATH FALLS -- The Oregon Tech engineering program is well-known throughout the region, but its curriculum is not contained solely within the walls of a classroom. Every now and then, it finds its way onto a race track on campus.
Students at OIT build Baja and Formula 1 cars essentially from scratch every single year, a project requiring work from students of many different educational backgrounds.
“We design and build 100 percent of this car other than the few parts that we buy off the shelf, which are the shocks and the engine," said Auddie Reynolds, the club's president on campus.
The program has been going continuously since 2013, but dates back to the 1990's. When current Oregon Tech Associate Dean of the College of Engineering, Technology, & Management, Brian Moravec, took over the program 15 years ago, it began to take off.
“I worked at Boeing, I had worked in the industry for 10 years before I came to teach here," Moravec explained, "I wanted us to move up to a higher level.”
This year, the school has a budget in the range of $20,000 to $25,000, almost all of which is dependent on fundraising in the community and through corporate partnerships. As a result, there are business majors in the program as well, who work on securing a lot of that funding.
Moravec mentioned companies like Boeing, Intel, and Nike as just a few that send recruiters specifically to see students in the program. These students' passion and expertise leads them to several competitions every year and one in California that sees them matched up against 100 different schools from as far as China, Abu Dhabi, Mexico, Canada and more. These competitions also involve some domestic engineering powerhouses like the University of Michigan, MIT, and Texas A&M.
With such intense competition and based on lessons learned in past years, the car designs seem to improve year after year.
"They get smaller and smaller, lighter and lighter," Reynolds said, "And they've gotten faster and faster every year."
As one might imagine, to perfect these models and make sure they're able to run in international competitions year in and year out, it requires a sizable time commitment.
"For the number of hours, it's like another part-time job, if not a full time job," Reynolds said.
Reynolds is now in his fifth year in the program and his point of view reflects those of many participants, which shows why the long hours in the shop on top of those in the classroom, are worth it.
"I love engineering and I love race cars, so you combine those two together, this is my hobby," Reynolds said, "I don't do this for a grade."
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