By Alyssa Rupp —
The University of Wisconsin–Stout’s Baja Racing Club is on the heels of returning from their trip to a national competition in Auburn, Alabama that took place April 9 to 12. The team placed 70th out of 103 teams at the event, hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers.
“We had ten people come down to Alabama with us,” says Matthew Fox, student president of the Baja Club. “And we had a team crash into us which screwed some stuff up [on the vehicle],” Fox notes, contributing to their placement amongst the other teams.
Stout’s Baja club has been around for close to 15 years now, and each year at nationals holds a little something different for the team. “There’s a big rule book that states the specifications for you car, like a roll cage and stuff like that. Every year they seem to change a rule just slightly, and we’ve had to pick that apart and make our vehicle work for each year,” Fox explains.
So what exactly is Baja racing?
“The vehicles are like off-road vehicles, almost like a dune-buggy or ATV style,” explains Devin Berg, an assistant professor and director of the manufacturing engineering program. Different events within the competition include hill climbs, maneuverability and endurance races that put the construction of the vehicle to the test. However, there is more to a successful Baja team than simply flawless construction of the race vehicle. “It’s basically like running a business,” Matthew admits, “It’s not just engineers, but there are other majors that are involved too.”
Because of the business aspects and strong emphasis on group work, UW–Stout’s Baja team is the perfect way to get involved and learn something valuable that could easily be applied to professional job situations. Competitions, like nationals, give club members instant exposure to companies like Honda, Toro and other automotive industries. “It’s a foot in the door and these companies see the hands-on work that you’ve done,” Fox says.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to get that real-world experience, and the various companies that hire in this field almost expect that,” Berg adds.
If you want to learn more about Stout’s Baja Racing Club visit their Facebook page, UW–Stout SAE Baja or contact Devin Berg in the technology department at firstname.lastname@example.org.