The first time Pittsburg State hosted the SAE Baja competition, the mood was a little dampened. The event started on the Thursday after the Joplin tornado in 2011. That natural disaster forced reactions and decisions that organizers didn't expect to have to make, let alone consider. But the spirit of the competitors shined through despite the tragedy. "We had a team that didn't even come to the event, they just skipped it and helped out the entire time in Joplin. We had a North Carolina team that competed later in Peoria [Illinois] that stayed in Pittsburg an extra week and helped out in Joplin." Pittsburg State will get another chance to host the Baja SAE competition. Thursday, PSU officials hosted a press conference officially announcing the 2014 Baja SAE — Kansas contest would be held on the PSU campus on May 25-29, 2014. The event involves teams of students competing in challenges related to the design, operation and building of a small off-road vehicle. It's a competition in which even the most minute of details face a litany of rules and regulations, in addition to the challenges of building a strong set of shocks and a powerful engine. "It can be nothing under X inches, and no longer than X inches. There are some rules about how the driver fits into the car. You can have so much distance from the shoulder to the edge, and from the helmet, there's so much distance to the roll bar," said Nicholas Praderio, captain of one of two Pittsburg State Baja teams. "It's a very large manual, and it's very scrutinized." Officials said that this year's event is already shaping up to be not only bigger than 2011, but better, too. the 2011 event brought 86 teams to Pittsburg and the Four States region. Already, there are 100 teams pre-registered for 2014, and 16 more remain on a waiting list. While many teams are from the U.S., southeast Kansas will be the four-day home to students from Egypt, South Korea, India, Brazil, Venezuela and more. The number of teams and competitors is music to the ears for Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director B.J. Harris. He said that 2,000-3,000 competitors will visit the area over the four days, bringing a potential economic impact of $2.5-$3 million during the competition. "Crawford County, the City of Pittsburg and the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce are excited to partner with PSU to bring Baja SAE — Kansas back to Pittsburg," Harris said. "The benefits of having so many visitors in our community are obvious and we're confident that those who come here will find it welcoming and a wonderful place to spend some time." Officials spoke about the warm welcome the Bajas met when the came to Pittsburg the first time, including local businesses with signs welcoming the teams. But Pittsburg State does have the distinction of being a first in the record books of the Baja SAE competition. "The first year, we were the first event ever — three are held each year and it's been going on for 23-24 years — the first to live stream the actual event," said PSU College of Technology Dean Bruce Dallman. "We're planning on doing that again." There's also plenty of work to be done between now and May. The Construction Department will take on the designing and building of the tracks this spring, letting the students operate as if they were a real-life company dealing with any individual or corporation. "We're still working on all the logistics, food, tents, and goings on with that. There's fundraising to do and we're trying to solicit funds. We're hoping to have a mini career fair, too, during the event for the companies that paid to come and recruit," Lindbloom said. Some of that heavy equipment that will be needed will soon be delivered, with work on the course (which is located east of the train tracks to the east of the Student Recreation Center) scheduled to begin as early as January, weather permitting. Lindbloom also said that SAE has committed to Pittsburg State hosting every three years for the foreseeable future. Before May arrives, there's also the matter of the PSU Bajas to be constructed, with two teams, working on cars nicknamed "Dorothy" and "Toto." During Thursday's press conference, there was also the odd matter of a past PSU Baja car being "unveiled" as part of the ceremony, but it's a bit odd to think of that Baja as a true representation of the competition. The real cars drive through mud, muck and more on the way to tearing through the accelaration trials, speed trials and several-hour endurance race designed to break the cars down. "A week ago, this Baja was covered in mud. Not a single panel was clean," Praderio said. "In fact, they have the raised number plates so officials can recognize the car during the competition. The driver, the car, everyone around gets covered in mud."