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TCAT Elizabethton gives UT Martin Baja racing team a hand prior to competition

John Thompson • Apr 17, 2018 at 9:43 PM

ELIZABETHTON — If you have a Baja dune buggy and 12 engineering students getting ready for a long road trip and you find out your vehicle needs some last minute welding, who do you call?

If you are Bob LeMaster, chairman of the engineering department at the University of Tennessee at Martin and you and your students are going to the Baja Society of Automotive Engineers Maryland competition in Mechanicsville, Md., you call your old friend, Jimmy Kee, retired welding instructor at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Elizabethton.

LeMaster said he discovered the need for a good welder’s touch as his students were getting ready to load their vehicle in the transporter and head east. Rather than delay the trip, LeMaster decided to contact Kee and set up a rendezvous in the welding shop of the Elizabethton school.

LeMaster said he and Kee have been friends since he took a summer welding course taught by Lee when he was at the TCAT campus at McKenzie.

The professor’s love of dune buggy racing goes back to 2009. He competed a few times in the Baja 1000, so he knows what needs to be strong and tough. He also knows where to get a strong welding job.

The meet LeMaster and his students are going to may not have the fame of the Baja 1000, but it does have a lot of impressive statistics of its own. There will be teams from 100 colleges and universities and eight foreign nations, including Keimyung University; Cairo University; D.Y. Patil College of Engineering, Akurdi; Ecole de Technology Superieure; Ecole National D’Aerotechnique; Government College of Engrg Pune; Instituto Technologico de Queretaro; Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Technology; and Mahrashtra Institute of Technology.

With the last weld and other minor adjustments, the UT Martin team loaded their vehicle back in its transporter and headed north for a battle of machines and brains.

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