ME Student Group Spotlight – BU SAE Baja Team

in NEWS, Students

By Jasmine Carter

2015 baja team

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja is a unique student group because its focus is purely hands-on engineering automotive vehicles.

“We don’t plan events or parties. Instead, we work late into the night designing, milling, and welding components to make our car run,” says Jeremy Crozier, President of the SAE BAJA.

For the un-initiated, a Baja vehicle is an off-road vehicle that often strongly resembles a dune buggy. Eesigning and building a functional Baja vehicle is no easy task. The design is constantly evolving. While the team spent months designing their vehicle, many things were changed once the build started. Additionally, last year’s car was the first one the team had ever built. The learning curve was steep, but the team soon got the hang of it

The ultimate goal for the BU Baja Team is to compete in the four-day Society of Automotive Engineers Baja International competition, which hosts 100 different teams at various locations every year. At these competitions, teams bring their Baja vehicles to test their mettle against tough terrain. The vehicles have to perform rock crawls, hill climbs, and maneuverability tests.

Excelling on A Grueling Course

At last year’s competition, BU’s SAE’s first, the Baja team performed well. Prior to starting the event, vehicles must go through a thorough technical inspection where each part– down to the bolts — is carefully inspected. The BU Team missed only one mark, for having a black background behind their team number. While other teams were frantically welding, redesigning, and cutting their cars apart because of mechanical issues, BU Baja fixed their small error by simply cutting up an oil pan and attaching their numbers to it.

Through the first three days, while other teams were losing parts, blowing axles, flipping over or just generally breaking down, the BU Baja Team’s 500lb buggy suffered only a slight incident involving its front bumper and a tree that came out of nowhere. Luckily, both tree and car were unscathed.

The final day of the competition was the four-hour endurance race. Here is where teams truly saw what their cars were really made of. While some teams designed their cars for speed, BU Baja designed its car for durability. While other teams’ vehicles flipped over as they raced for the finish, the BU team’s vehicle easily withstood the dirt and rock trails through the woods. Here is also where the spirit of the competition came to light. Near the end of the race, the BU Team noticed an issue with their vehicle, which turned out to be a broken front tire mount. Lacking the spare part needed to fix the issue, the team reached out to their competitors, found the needed part, and had their vehicle back on the track in less than 30 minutes.

Ultimately, the BU Baja Team car finished in the top half of the competition. “I could not be more proud of the hard work each member contributed to make this competition a reality, said Crozier of his experience at the competition. “Unless you were there for those late nights on the weekends or during the straining four-day competition, it is difficult to put into words the immense commitment put in to making this possible and the overwhelming sense of pride shared by everyone when we passed the finish line during that last lap.”

Inviting New Members for 2015-2016 Competition

The team now is eager to apply lessons learned to designing and building a new car from scratch for the next Baja competition, in Rochester, NY.

The team is looking to expand membership during the upcoming school year. All are welcome. Although it’s a student group that focuses on automotive building and is therefore  composed of plenty of mechanical engineers, the BU SAE BAJA team also has members from COM and Questrom School of Management.

If you are an undergraduate student and are interested in learning more about becoming a member of BU SAE Baja, please email saebaja@bu.edu.

For a quick glimpse into what it takes to build a Baja vehicle, check out BU SAE Baja’s video.