Stags, start your engines! Engineering students compete in Baja SAE off-road race
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Stags, start your engines! Engineering students compete in Baja SAE off-road race

Students in the School of Engineering will be testing their mettle as they compete for the first time at the Baja SAE, an intercollegiate design competition run by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

Teams of students from universities all over the world design and build small off-road vehicles that are then put to the test to see which one can withstand the off-road race’s tough terrain. Based off the Baja 1000, an off-road race that takes place in Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, Baja SAE is both challenging and fun for mechanical engineering students or anyone with an interest in cars. 

Emily Yale ’18, a mechanical engineering student and the vice president of the Society of Automotive Engineers Club, said, “The competition is made up of several races over rocks, hills, mud, tree roots and fields. These races put an incredible amount of stress on the vehicle so we must have a design that can withstand the forces acting on it. The races range from a short acceleration test to a four-hour endurance race. In addition to the dynamic races, there are several ‘static’ events we will be judged on including cost, design, and a business plan pitch.” 

25 Stags have joined Fairfield’s Baja team and will spend this semester building the vehicle in preparation for the race, which takes place June 9-12 in Rochester, New York. Yale, Dennis Turano ’17 and Karim Kharbouch ’17 lead the team and are advised by Professor Bob Wojna. 

All teams are given a specific engine for the competition as well as a list of parameters and restrictions that they must meet for the race. Students on the Fairfield team have been working on this project since the summer and spent last semester designing, planning their budget and picking out components for their vehicle. 

“Last semester we looked at past top-ranking teams and watched videos so we could analyze their designs. We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel, so we looked to see what information was out there, dissected it and incorporated it into our design,” Yale explained. 

This semester the Baja team will be building in the lower level of the Bannow Science Center. Yale reports that the team plans to be done building in April after which they will begin testing their vehicle for the June race (stay tuned for that!). 

The School of Engineering is excited about participation in this national-recognized competition. Bruce Berdanier, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering, reported that it was a major goal of the School of Engineering’s Advisory Board. “Participation in competitions such as the SAE Baja create tangible excitement and engagement for our engineering students. The skills they learn in designing, specification, procurement and all aspects of project management provide added value to the excellent engineering degree that they receive from Fairfield. Also, the professional skills and benefits from networking with companies and presenting their project to be evaluated by professional engineers in comparison to their peers are an excellent professional experience. We are just beginning in this process and expect our students to grow and mature over the next four or five years to be nationally competitive.” 

Stay tuned for more updates as the June race approaches. Any students interested in joining the team should contact Emily Yale at

Pictured: L-R: Emily Yale '18, Raymond Sanchez '19, and Dennis Turano '17 at the Student Activities Fair with the engine they will use for their Baja SAE vehicle. 
Pictured: Close up of engine plus digital design of their Baja vehicle's frame.

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Last modified: Thu, 28 Jan 2016 11:37:53 EST

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