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Baja Society of Automotive Engineers Aims to Engineer the Future

March 20, 2017

An off-road competition is on the road for NYU’s Baja Society of Automobile Engineers. The team is working on a project to create a custom vehicle to compete against other universities in a competition hosted by the international Baja SAE organization.

Starting in summer 2016, Tandon mechanical engineering majors junior Austin Hunt and sophomore Marcus Cheung spearheaded both this competitive team and a separate Baja SAE club. Hunt said that the Baja SAE club is open to anyone and that the club hosts fun activities and educational events, such as teaching students how to use design software. Founder and Baja SAE Team Captain Hunt said he was inspired to form this team while working for SpaceX in California and was tipped off about the competition by fellow co-workers.

“In the workplace, a lot of my co-workers had done team activities,” Hunt said. “They had an engineering team, so a lot of them had Baja SAE competitions and a lot of them built formula cars. I wanted to bring that experience to Tandon.”

Hunt said that he immediately began researching how to start the initiative, the amount of funding required and how many people the competition required for the team. He said that the team received funding from the university in September 2016, and since then, the team has  worked to bring the vision of an automobile to life. Hunt said that the team of about 15 engineering students is divided into two sections: design and manufacturing.

“It’s a challenge not just in the engineering aspect to build the car in such a short span,” Hunt said, while also adding that his is only in its first year. “It is also especially challenging, because you are building the infrastructure for the future teams.”

He said that to set a precedent for future Baja SAE generations, the team has focused on establishing sources of funding, finding support from professional engineers and cooperating with the community.

Cheung, the director of media of external affairs for Baja SAE, also said that the team has been focusing on trying to build a reputation for itself. He said that Baja SAE has a media team of about eight students to create content that represents the team accurately and artistically.

“The media team creates content to show that engineering is not just math and science,” Cheung said. “Anyone can have an idea, but not everyone can actually go about and build that idea. Engineering is not just making a drawing on the computer.”

Although the team has received funding from sources such as the Office of Academic Affairs, Cheung said that finding support has been difficult.

“The biggest challenge from the beginning was having the proper support from faculty and advisors,” Cheung said. “Space is an issue in the city, and money is a big factor — funding is a big factor. Having the right people at the right time to kind of help build up the foundation for you [is important], because we really started from nothing.”

Both Hunt and Cheung agreed that despite the obstacles they have overcome since their foundation, the venture has provided unparalleled insight into the engineering industry. Hunt said that many team members probably didn’t understand how to apply engineering theory outside of the classroom but have now been given the opportunity to do so, because of this initiative.

“We want the Baja SAE team to be a first step in a direction toward providing more hands-on engineering experiences for students,” Hunt said. “Having something like this not only helps you get internships and jobs when you graduate, but it helps make you a better engineer in general.”

Email Jemima McEvoy at [email protected]

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