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April 23, 2009

Adrenaline 101: Off-Road Engineers Excel

Photo Caption: A four-hour SAE Baja race is a muddy marathon.

Safety goggles are required gear in many campus labs. Mechanical engineering graduate student Sam Markkula and his teammates just prefer one that also requires a helmet, rollbars and lots of mud.

Markkula is a member of the UMBC chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), a student club of hands-on engineers who design, build and race an off-road vehicle for Baja SAE, a series of annual endurance races against national and international competition.

The group just returned triumphant from the SAE Baja East race in Auburn, Alabama, with the best overall score (7th out of 100 teams) in UMBC SAE history. Team UMBC finished ahead of cars from Georgia Tech, Auburn University, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Bucknell, Virginia Tech and other prestigious universities.

“Our months and countless hours of hard work have definitely paid off,” said Mark Foster, a senior mechanical engineering major and president of UMBC Baja SAE.

In addition to a four-hour long endurance race, Baja SAE teams are graded on their cars’ maneuverability, suspension, traction, speed, ergonomics and production cost. The 2009 UMBC team continued its tradition of excelling in the cost category, achieving their Top 10 overall results with the cheapest-to-produce car in the field.

“UMBC's Baja SAE team is now in the top 10 nationwide, but in our eyes, they are number one,” said Shlomo Carmi, professor and chair of mechanical engineering. “It is especially impressive that during this difficult budget cycle, they delivered again on the ‘best bang for the buck.’ We are so proud of this team of outstanding students.”

The Baja SAE endurance race is a sensory overload of noise and nerves. Drivers have to resist the urge to drive at top speeds so the car can last the entire duration without being disqualified, tumbling down steep hills, or crashing into logs, rocks and other cars. Other team members serve as pit crew for fuel or repair stops.

“Imagine over 100 lawnmowers all running in close proximity,” said Markkula. “It’s quite loud. We cleaned off at least 30 pounds of mud from each car, and the drivers probably have breathed in at least a half pound by the end of the race.”

This year’s team owes a tip of the helmet to nearby Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) Catonsville. A change to an independent rear suspension required moving and custom-designing the gearbox. The UMBC team was fortunate to receive help from Bill Werneke, an expert machinist and instructor of CCBC-Catonsville’s manufacturing technology program.

Werneke programmed blueprints for the gearbox design into computer-assisted manufacturing and design software, and built the rig in the workshop with the help of his students. Werneke and the CCBC program serve as an apprenticeship path and hands-on training for future machinists from across Maryland. 

Baja SAE is open to graduate or undergraduate students willing to contribute their time, learn how to operate the shop tools and who are in good academic standing. UMBC Baja SAE is advised by mechanical engineering professor Tony Farquhar.

The UMBC team’s next race is in Wisconsin in June. For more information, visit and click on the Baja SAE link.

To watch video of UMBC’s Baja SAE team in action at a 2008 event, click on the video player below:


Posted by crose

April 1, 2005

Girl Power vs. the Gender Gap: April 9 at UMBC

Soccer Star Brandi Chastain Leads Hundreds of Middle School Girls, Parents, Teachers, in day of fun, hands-on, high-tech

Contact: Chip Rose

Women's soccer icon Brandi Chastain takes aim at the technology gender gap instead of Olympic gold as she joins hundreds of middle-school girls, parents and teachers from across Maryland for Computer Mania Day at UMBC on April 9.

Best known for her championship-winning goal on a penalty kick in the 1999 Women's World Cup, Chastain brings a "you can do anything," girl-power message to Computer Mania Day at UMBC, an annual day of free, hands-on, high-tech, fun activities for adults and kids.

Sponsored by UMBC's Center for Women and Information Technology (CWIT), the half-day event helps to get girls interested in technology and computing careers while teaching parents and teachers ways to sharpen their own computer skills. While boys are welcome, the focus is on girls because of their continuing under-representation in science, technology, engineering and math.

Research shows that the information technology (IT) gender gap opens as early as the middle school years, when girls are most image-conscious and do not want to be labeled as "geeks" or "nerds." Girls also make up only 14 percent of Advanced Placement students in computer science, a key to success in IT-related fields at the college level.

Computer Mania Day offers free, fun, hands-on activities for kids and adults plus free lunch and the chance to meet Chastain. Workshops are led by positive female role models from UMBC along with business, government and education leaders.

Girls' events highlights include "Hardware Rocks," digital art and imaging, and the physics of do-it-yourself hot air balloons. Adult workshop highlights include how to prepare your kids for college, "Computers 101," and "Cyber Safety: Keeping Your Child Protected Online."

Saturday, April 9, 2005. 9 a.m to 2:30 p.m.
Retriever Activities Center, UMBC.
Admission is FREE and lunch is included. All adult and student attendees MUST register ahead of time online at To sign up or for more information, visit or call 410-455-8642.

Posted by crose

March 7, 2005

The Real Story of UMBC Athletics' Academic Success

Contact: Chip Rose

Just imagine. You're literally Number One and then you find out that no, there's a report you're actually last among thousands. First there's disbelief, then you laugh -- who could believe it? -- and then you realize that some people might actually believe -- absurd though the notion is -- that you, UMBC, could be LAST in anything relating to academics.

Such were the reactions of UMBC's athletic director Charlie Brown, his coaches, and athletes -- as well as most of the administration, faculty, staff and students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. (Happily, a correction was issued as soon as the absurdity was recognized.)

The Real Story of UMBC Athletics' Academic Success

Background: On February 28, 2005, the NCAA released its preliminary (and first) Academic Progress Report, a new system for tracking how many student-athletes are staying in school and making adequate progress toward their degrees. That day the word went out that UMBC's indoor track team ranked last among all of the 5,270 men's and women's teams nationwide. Could not be, was not, true.


  • UMBC is #1 of the ten schools in the America East Conference with an average score of 978 out of a possible 1000. The conference average is 958.

  • UMBC is ranked #2, behind the United States Naval Academy (990), in the ten Division I programs in Maryland.

  • Overall, out of 328 schools nationwide, UMBC ranks 36th.

  • In men's basketball, UMBC scored 1000, one of only 33 schools in the nation to achieve the perfect mark. Men's basketball players' majors include financial economics, history, sociology and environmental studies.

  • Eight of UMBC's 20 programs receive perfect scores and no program is below 925.

  • The accidentally maligned men's indoor track and field program has a score of 947; the team has a 2.85 cumulative GPA.

  • Currently, 228 -- or 52 percent -- of 438 student athletes have 3.0 grade-point averages or higher – 20 more than last spring.


Because UMBC is an Honors University, coaches recruit athletes who can succeed both athletically and academically at the Division I-AAA level. We want students who will integrate with the general campus population and be involved in the larger community.


The new Academic Center for Student-Athletes is equipped with 12 computers, individual study carrels, and three full-time staff members who assist the athletes in course selection, academic skills, time management, long-range academic planning and career development.

The Center's EXCELL program gives special, individualized attention to student athletes who need additional academic and social support.

Posted by crose

August 16, 2002

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Posted by dwinds1

December 10, 2001


Posted by dwinds1

December 7, 2001

Men's Hoops Return to the RAC

For the second consecutive year, the UMBC men's basketball team made it pretty clear which team was "Baltimore's Best."

For the second consecutive year, the UMBC men's basketball team made it pretty clear which team was "Baltimore's Best." Before a very pro-UMBC crowd at Loyola's Reitz Arena and a local (WMAR-TV) television audience, the Retrievers successfully defended their Battle of Baltimore title with convincing wins over the host Greyhounds (76-66) and the Towson Tigers (73-54). But unlike last season, when UMBC won the title at home, and followed up with home league wins over Robert Morris and St. Francis University, the Retrievers play the first four games of the season (and nine of the first thirteen) on the road, making the December home games with Quinnipiac (December 6), Central Connecticut (December 8) and Towson (December 22) critical to UMBC's early season success.I think these home games are very significant in terms of the students coming to see the team and how well we can play, says Head Coach Tom Sullivan. I think that it may have been an advantage for us to play our first few games on the road. We have a young team and we're starting to get settled in on what makes this team good and how we play with each other. We'll come home and we'll show our fans that.The elixir for UMBC's success in the Battle of Baltimore was defense. They held Loyola to 25% shooting in the first half, grabbed an eleven-point advantage and were not serious challenged in the second half. In the title game vs. Towson, UMBC jumped out a 21-6 lead, forced 25 Tiger turnovers and maintained a large gap throughout the game.I thought we were ready defensively and I think that's a big thing this time of the year. Overall, I thought we responded very well, adds Sullivan.The Retrievers featured many outstanding performances, including newcomer Malik Wallace (24 points in two games) and sophomore Ron Yates (21 points vs. Loyola), who both earned All Tournament Team honors. But sophomore Peter Mulligan was the top dog, earning Tournament Most Valuable Player honors with 35 points, 17 rebounds and eight steals in the two games.Peter is one of those players that you really don't have to do much coaching with. His aggressive nature is something you don't see very often. He has a great deal of confidence and doesn't let any situation throw him off, says Sullivan.Both team members and Retriever fans are eyeing those early December home games to create plenty of excitement at the RAC Arena.The whole team is really looking forward to playing at home, says junior guard Kareem Washington. I hope we don't get too anxious, so we can go out and do what Coach (Sullivan) wants us to do. Some players get worked up at home, but I think we have guys, like Peter Mulligan, who really look forward to that type of experience.Season ticket holder George Preisinger, director of transportation services, says, I am eagerly looking forward to UMBC men's basketball games at the RAC Arena because, as I witnessed at an early exhibition, the blend of our now more mature returning players with some skilled newcomers has created an exciting team that's fun to watch. I anticipate a very successful year continuing into the conference tournament. Also, the spirit created by the Down and Dirty Dawg Band, Dance Team and re-energized student body makes an evening at the RAC quite entertaining.Basketball fan Ellen Wiggins, special assistant to Vice President Mark Behm, agrees. Our whole family loves basketball and the UMBC games are a fun, inexpensive family night out. Plus we are looking forward to seeing the exciting play of returning UMBC players like Yates, McClurkin and Mulligan and the several new promising freshmen.

Posted by dwinds1

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