Engineering Students Embark on Baja Buggy Adventure

Engineering Students Embark on Baja Buggy Adventure

A photo of Daniel (Tea Young) Kim ’22, George Barlow ’23, Clarissa Rotonto ’22, Nwachukwu Ibekwe ’22, Ryan Peterson ’22, Ali Alrawendoozi ’22, and Joseph Liucci ’23

From May 20-23, seven students from the School of Engineering will compete at the SAE Baja Buggy Competition in Louisville, Kentucky.

At Louisville's Drop Forge Proving Grounds from May 20 to 23, the Society of Automotive Engineer's (SAE) international Baja Buggy Collegiate Design Competition features 78 teams of students building and racing single-seat off-road vehicles designed to operate in dirt, mud, and on rocky, rough terrain — within a strict set of design rules. This year’s competition is being operated in a hybrid model in order for international teams to participate.

"The Baja Design Competition is an international event that requires the students to go through the entire design process which includes fabrication and testing, cost analysis, conformance to design standards, technical report writing, and project management. The main outcome is becoming familiar with industry-wide design processes and preparing [engineering students] for the workforce," explained Sriharsha Srinivas Sundarram, PhD, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and SAE Baja co-advisor.

The objective of the competition is to simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges. Representing Fairfield University are Daniel (Tea Young) Kim ’22, George Barlow ’23, Clarissa Rotonto ’22, Nwachukwu Ibekwe ’22, Ryan Peterson ’22, Ali Alrawendoozi ’22, and Joseph Liucci ’23. 

The students' journey to the competition began earlier this year when they inherited the previous Fairfield team's half-built buggy. Consulting with former team members, they came up with a design and began work. 

"When I first saw the buggy, I had absolutely no thought of us driving with it to competition, but through a ton of dedication and late night welding, fabrication, and design, it was brought to life! And man it was cool seeing it rip up the hill by the loading dock," said Alrawendoozi. 

Fairfield's Baja Buggy team is led by students and prepares them to be career-ready after they graduate. The competition also helps students to build important connections with peers and engineering companies. 

"We are thankful to the Earl & Hilda Brinkman Family Foundation for their continuous support and encouragement to promote the Baja Buggy international competition," commented Shahrokh Etemad, PhD, Mechanical Engineering Department Chair and SAE Baja co-advisor. "Students have been working extremely hard, in particular during the last couple of weeks, multi-tasking to get the vehicle ready for the competition while they were going through their final exams."

Describing the experience so far, Alrawendoozi said, "We have all gotten to know each other's strengths, and through building the buggy we’ve exchanged a ton of knowledge and skills. I personally have learned to weld, fabricate metal, and smith, using many power tools and making complex geometries. When you’re working as a team, taking initiative over whatever you can help with is great. I would say it’s made all of us better and more well-rounded engineers."

Learn more about Fairfield University’s Engineering programs at

Tags:  School of Engineering and Computing,  Top Stories


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