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News and information from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.

Friday, July 21, 2006

PSU team earns accolades in S. Korea

Members of the Pittsburg State University Mini-Baja team celebrate their victory in the muddy endurance race at Gyeongsang National University in South Korea this week, at right. Members of the team, left to right, are: Shawn Winkler, Mark Turner, Vincent Bortone, and Cody Emmert.

Half a world away, four Pittsburg State University students have been making a name for themselves and for PSU's Automotive Technology programs. The students, who have been a Gyeongsang National University (GNU) in South Korea since February, finished first this week in the endurance race portion of the Korean Mini Baja competition in a car they designed and built from scratch. The PSU entry had previously captured first-place awards in cost report and safety/static judging. There are 77 cars in the competition in South Korea and PSU’s is the only entry not from that nation.

The PSU students are team captain Cody Emmert, a senior from Seneca, Kan.; Mark Turner, a senior from Lenexa, Kan.; Shawn Winkler, a junior from Seneca, Kan.; and Vincent Bortone, a graduate student from Olathe, Kan.

John Iley, chairman of Technology Studies, called the students’ achievements "fantastic."

"We are all so proud of how well the PSU team has done," Iley said.

In the U.S., the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Mini Baja competition consists of three regional competitions. Internationally, competitions are held in Mexico, Brazil, Korea and South Africa.

According to the SAE Web site, "The object of the competition is to provide SAE student members with a challenging project that involves the planning and manufacturing tasks found when introducing a new product to the consumer industrial market. Teams compete against one another to have their design accepted for manufacture by a fictitious firm. Students must function as a team to not only design, build, test, promote, and race a vehicle within the limits of the rules, but also to generate financial support for their project and manage their educational priorities."

For the Mini Baja participants, the endurance race is the prize the teams covet the most, Iley said.

"The engineering students are required to design and build an off-road vehicle that will survive the extreme punishment on some pretty rough terrain," Iley said. "They put a great deal of time and effort into design, manufacture, cost reports and other things, but if the vehicle can't finish the endurance test, it's a big disappointment."

Iley said that while other American universities have competed in Korea, PSU is the first to send a team to actually do the work leading up to the competition at the host site. Iley said the exchange with GNU began in 2001. Since then, PSU has hosted groups of students from GNU each year for programs in technology and business.

Catherine Hooey and Tim Bailey, members of the faculty in the PSU Department of Social Sciences, designed a course in East Asian Geography for the PSU students. Hooey said it was difficult to quantify the great benefits the PSU students would have from living, learning and competing in another country.

"This exposes them to another culture," Hooey said, "and it broadens their world far beyond the borders of Kansas."

While at GNU, the PSU team has been busy with much more than building and racing. The Americans have been working in the university's English Department where they help Korean students with conversational English. They have also been assisting GNU's Engineering Department improve its automotive technology program.

As of mid week, a number of scores for various Mini-Baja competition categories had still not been posted, so the PSU students did not know where their car ranked in the overall standings, although they were confident it was high on the list. They are scheduled to return to the U.S. on July 29, bringing with them lots of awards and more importantly, memories of a rich experience they will never forget.

The members of the PSU Mini-Baja team are: • Cody Emmert, a senior from Seneca, Kan. His parents are Andy and Dana Emmert, Seneca. • Mark Turner, a senior from Lenexa, Kan. His parents are Kevin Turner, Salina, and Charlene Wallace, Lenexa • Shawn Winkler, a junior from Seneca, Kan. His parents are Chris & Margaret Winkler, Seneca. • Vincent Bortone, a graduate student from Olathe, Kan. His parents are Vincent Bortone Sr. and Adela Bortone, Olathe.

---Pitt State---