February 02, 2023
Midland Radio donated several two-way radios to the University of Northwestern Ohio Off-Road Club.
Midland Radio caught up with Blake Bovender, the club's Senior Modified Trail Lead.
Bovender said the club was first founded in 2002.
"We’re a high performance automotive college and we are taught all aspects of that, but when it comes to off-road, a lot of the professors weren’t from that area. There were a lot of students that were into off-roading. The club started based off eight students and an instructor that agreed to oversee it. From there, it’s grown to where it is now," he said.
There are now about 80 total members. Bovender said the goal is to get students involved in all aspects of off-roading such as anything four-wheel drive, baja racing, super truck, mud trucks, and even some larger Monster Jam type vehicles.
The group works to build relationships with companies and professional off-road teams in order to help students build connections for potential job opportunities after graduation.
“We go on a lot of off-road trips. We teach a lot of off-road things. A lot of times we’ll teach our off-road members things about suspension geometry, communication off-road, planning trips, using the right parts- really anything related to off-road is what our club does.”
About three years after its founding, the group acquired project vehicles. These were the result of teacher donations, parent donations, student donations, and fundraisers.
“We have a Ford Explorer which started as a normal Ford Explorer that was donated by our local Ford dealership. Now, it’s lifted about a foot and it’s pretty cool. It runs on propane.”
Because the group is made up of college students, the UNOH Off-Road Club looks for educational opportunities as much as possible.
“If you’re in the club, you’ll learn about everything in the industry. We have classes every so often on weekends- some will teach suspension geometry, recovery and spotting off-road, wiring and proper waterproofing, tire and parts selection," Bovender said.
The school also host Hill Days.
"Behind one of our buildings, we have this big hill that was made about the same time as when the club started in 2002. It’s got logs, rocks, it’s a small little off-road course that the school helped us put together for the students interested in the club.”
Students can get their vehicles approved and then wheel up the hill through different obstacles.
"We’ll make sure their vehicle is safe, then they get to go up the hill and try all these different lines. We’ll also try to teach people spotting and recovery so people can learn as they’re going up.”
The group has a points system and at the End of Year Awards Ceremony they hand out awards for members such as, "Most Improved" and "Broke the Most Parts."
The club's events extend beyond campus activities.
“Outside of school, we go to a lot of off-road parks. There’s maybe four of five parks near us that we go to. We’ll spend a weekend out there off-roading, camping, cooking out."
The group installed an MXt115 in their project vehicle, a Ford Explorer, donated by a local dealership.
“We installed one of the MicroMobiles in our Ford Explorer. We need that in there because you almost can’t see the person in front of you. You can just talk straight to the driver and it makes everything easier.”
The group has passed out handhelds to members of the club as they hit the trails.
“We use the radios from Midland for spotting and for general communication. Usually when we have someone going up the hill, you don’t want to communicate with them by yelling outside the car. With the radios, especially the handhelds, you can give them to those driving and then to person outside the vehicle.”
Bovender knew the club needed to invest in two-way radios, but was initially considering CB radios before landing on GMRS.
“We weren’t even thinking about GMRS when we reached out to Midland because we didn’t know about it, but once we learned about the range and sound quality, GMRS was a no brainer.”
He said the group has noticed an improvement when it comes to efficiency because of the use of two-way radios.
“It’s convenient, it’s easy. They have great sound quality, great range. It doesn’t make sense why you wouldn’t have a radio if you’re going to off-road. Our club has been getting so big, we needed a better way to communicate.”
Bovender also said the two-way radios have had a positive impact on safety on their off-road adventures.
“The radios are important, bottom line, on a safety level. With these radios we’re a lot safer and have peace of mind with everything that we do each day. With spotting, you can communicate way easier. With big trips and big parks, we always know that we can get in contact with each other. Before we had the Midland Radios, we couldn’t.”
Bovender reached out to Midland Radio for two-way radio help because he knew it would be a good fit for the club. The group's favorite products are the handheld two-way radios.
“Our favorite is the handhelds because of how easy they are to just hand out. You can keep them on a belt loop or in a cup holder. You don’t have to install them.”
However, Bovender himself installed an MXT275 MicroMobile® Two-Way Radio and enjoys it because of the Fully-Integrated Control Microphone.
“Personally, my favorite is the MXT275. I bought that one for myself actually and put it in my Jeep. I love that I can hide that unit away between my seat and the center console. It’s very discreet.”
The club has a big off-road trip planned for June in Windrock, Tennessee. GMRS two-way radios will be a requirement.
“On our Windrock trip, we’re requiring that you have a GMRS radio. If not, we have a sign up for those that need to borrow one. These radios have been a great help and have improved our experience."