Titanium Donation to Harding University’s Baja Bison Team

This is the first year we’ve been able to support Harding University’s Baja SAE team, Baja Bison. Zach Charette, Co-Captain of the team, gives some insight below as to why they chose titanium and any issues the team ran into. We wish them all the best as they go into the competition phase.

Harding University Gearbox Output Shaft


PTG: Tell me a bit about your team and your role on it. What kind of experience have you gained being a part of the Baja SAE program?

Zach: The Harding University Bison Baja team is a relatively young team, competing in its first competition in 2013.  However, this team has grown tremendously throughout the 7 years of competing.  This tight knit group of peers is willing to work hard and have fun while doing it.  I was the 2019-2020 Co-Captain of the team and recently elected to be the 2020-2021 Captain.  I was also in charge of the research and development and manufacturing side of our operation.  During the 2018-2019 competition season, I was the brake system lead.  Throughout my 3 years on the team, I have gained wonderful experience in problem solving and overcoming challenges.  The Baja SAE program has provided me with industry insight that, otherwise, I would not have.  I am grateful for the knowledge and friendships gained through this program.


PTG: Have you ever used titanium on a vehicle before? PTG donated 6-4 ELI round bar. How was this used?

Zach: This is the first year that our team has used titanium.  This material was used to manufacture our spindles for the front suspension assembly as well as the output shaft of the gearbox.

Harding University gearbox output shaft

PTG: Why choose titanium over other materials? What advantage were you hoping to gain in competition?

Zach: Titanium was chosen to help meet the teams weight goals for this year.  The low-density, relative to steel, and its desirable strength properties allow the design team more options for part optimization.  The low-density aids in achieving weight requirements while maintaining the structural integrity of the parts required by the rigorous competition.  Ultimately, this results in better performance by our team and car.

Harding University titanium front suspension spindles

PTG: Did you machine in house? Did you run into any difficulties machining the titanium?

Zach: We machined all of our titanium in house.  The only challenges experienced were selecting the starting point for feeds and speeds.  However, this was remedied by referencing the data sheets provided by the manufacturers of the cutting tools.  These values were used as a starting point and everything was dialed in from there.  We could not be happier with the final results.

Harding University machining titanium

PTG: Is your team planning on participating in any of the virtual competitions? What will that look like for your team?

Zach: Yes, we will be competing in the virtual competition.  Despite being online, the experience, we believe, will not differ from in-person presentations.  The documentation phase has already commenced and therefore, members are preparing their sections of the presentation on their own.  This will require a video conference to prepare the finished presentation.  However, we do not expect any challenges to arise.


To learn more about Baja Bison and SAE competitions: