Students race toward championship with off-road Baja


University of Akron College of Engineering

WHEN THE Zips 2012-13 Baja Race Team began planning the design of its off-road racing vehicle last June, “Our goal was to be a step ahead of everyone else and to be champions,” says team captain Mack Monegan, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

The team took a professional approach to designing its vehicle, applying the practical experience members gained through their co-op positions to engineer a durable and lightweight, high-performance vehicle. The Zips set a new precedent for Baja race car design by engineering the vehicle around its tires. At Smithers Rapra in Ravenna, the students tested the tires for driving force, lateral force, vertical stiffness and footprints, and they used the data collected to design the vehicle’s suspension, steering and transmission.

University of Akron College of Engineering

ABOVE: After countless hours devoted to design and fabrication, the team puts its final touches on its 2013 vehicle before departing for Baja SAE competition hosted by Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tenn. Team members are (from left) Standing: Colin Van Dyke, Peter Fetzer, Time Hettenbaugh, Sarah McGowan, Mike Croston, Andrew Peters, Eric Payne. Kneeling: Austin Beery, Mack Monegan. Not pictured: Scott Angel, Dalton Hayes. Phil Bennett, Mustafa Malik.

“No other team had done this before in the history of the competition,” Monegan says. “We have experience and data to back our design, which should impress the judges.”

Baja RacingUnder the direction of faculty adviser Dr. Richard Gross, associate professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, the team started frame fabrication in November 2012 and significantly reduced cost by using sand castings, which included using a 3-D printer to print casting molds. Since then, the team — comprised primarily of mechanical engineering students yet open to all UA students — has dedicated countless hours toward vehicle design, fundraising, marketing and training for competitions, the first of which takes place April 18-21 at Tennessee Technological University followed by a June 6-9 competition at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Adviser with great expertise

“Dr. Gross is the best adviser you could ever want,” says Monegan, noting Gross’ expertise in vehicle dynamics and decades-long leadership of the Zips Baja Race Team. Gross received a 2012 Faculty Adviser Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers International.

Seniors on this year’s team include:

  • Austin Beery, tire testing;
  • Mike Croston, braking;
  • Peter Fetzer, drive train;
  • Sarah McGowan, steering;
  • Colin Van Dyke, front suspension; and
  • Mack Monegan, rear suspension.

The Zips Baja Race Team will join the University’s Formula race team to unveil their 2013 vehicles on Tuesday, April 30 at 6 p.m. at the UA Student Union ballroom.

For more details and photos about the team, visit

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or