Engineers Excel at International Baja SAE Competition

Engineers Excel at International Baja SAE Competition

Fairfield’s Baja Team fine tunes the vehicle before the endurance race.

Seven students from the School of Engineering competed at the Baja SAE Design Competition and Validation Event in Louisville, Kentucky in May 2021.

At Louisville’s Drop Forge Proving Grounds, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja Competition featured teams of students designing, building, and racing singleseat, off-road vehicles that can operate in dirt, mud, and on rocky, rough terrain, within a strict set of design rules. This year’s competition operated in a hybrid model in order for international teams to participate.

“The Baja Design Competition is an international event that requires 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, the Brinkman Family Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, who serves as SAE Baja co-advisor with adjunct professor Robert Wojna.

Representing Fairfield University at Baja SAE were Daniel (Tea Young) Kim ’22, George Barlow ’23, Clarissa Rotonto ’22, Nwachukwu Ibekwe ’22, Ryan Peterson ’22, Ali Al Rawendoozi ’22, and Joseph Liucci ’23.

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

The students’ journey to the competition began last year, in the middle of the pandemic, when they inherited the previous Fairfield team’s unfinished vehicle. 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 the 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 Al Rawendoozi.

Out of 150 team entries, Fairfield’s Baja Buggy was one of only 60 to pass all inspections for the final endurance race in Louisville, and placed well in both the Hill Climb and Suspension & Traction categories.

“We are thankful to the Earl & Hildagunda Brinkman Family Foundation for their continuous support and encouragement in promoting the Baja Vehicle international competition,” commented Shahrokh Etemad, PhD, Mechanical Engineering Department Chair. “Students worked extremely hard to get the vehicle ready for the competition, while also going through final exams.”

Describing the experience, Al Rawendoozi 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 would say it’s made all of us better and more well-rounded engineers.”

Already revving up for next year’s competition at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Fairfield’s Baja team is using their knowledge and experience from this year’s event to race ahead with a brand-new vehicle design that is certain to drive them across the finish line to victory.

Tags:  School of Engineering and Computing

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