Baja SAE is an intercollegiate design competition run by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Teams of students from universities all over the world design and build small off-road cars. The cars all have engines of the same specifications. As of 2009 the engine has been an unmodified Briggs & Stratton Intek 20 single-cylinder with a displacement of 300cc and power output of approximately 10 bhp (7.5 kW).
The goal in Baja SAE racing is to design, build and race off-road vehicles that can withstand the harshest elements of rough terrain. The vehicles used in Baja SAE racing are often similar in appearance to dune buggies. Before 2007, the events were called “Mini Baja.”
Mini Baja race from the 2004 Mid-West Competition
Picture of the UCAB vehicle navigating a jump at the test track La Limonera in Caracas, Venezuela in preparation for the 2007 Baja Midwest event in Rochester, NY
Each year as many as 141 Baja cars are entered in the Baja SAE events across the US and around the world where events are held including India, Brazil, South Africa and Korea. In India this event is run by SAE India. All cars must adhere to SAE’s rules, and pass SAE’s technical inspection and judging; a car may not race until all safety inspections are passed. Small engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton sponsors Baja SAE teams by providing the SAE sanctioned engine free of charge, at a replacement rate of one engine for every two years in competition.
There are multiple dynamic events, usually four per event, as well as a single four-hour endurance race. The dynamic events include hill climbs, chain pulls, maneuverability events, rock crawls, and suspension & traction events. At one of the American SAE sanction events, (formally the East event) the car had to be able to float and propel itself on water under its own power. This was changed for the 2012 competition due to safety concerns.
Static events, such as written reports, presentations and design evaluations are provided by participating teams. This is when the teams are judged on ergonomics, functionality, and producibility of their cars; ensuring that the final placement of the team does not rest solely on the vehicle’s performance but rather on a combination of static and dynamic events. Required reports detail the engineering and design process that was used in developing each system of the team’s vehicle, supported with sound engineering principles. Also, a cost report that provides all the background information necessary to verify the vehicle’s actual cost is used to rate the most economically feasible for production. These reports are submitted weeks in advance of each event, where the presentations and design evaluations are given on site in the presence of SAE design judges.
3D CAD Model designed using Solidworks and CATIA V5 by the TEAM – KIIT of KIIT University, Bhubaneswar in preparation for the 2013 Baja event at Indore, India
The Baja SAE Competition originated at the University of South Carolina in 1976, under the supervision of Dr. J. F. Stevens. Since that time, the competition has grown to become a premier engineering design series for university teams.
Baja SAE is an intercollegiate engineering design competition for undergraduate and graduate engineering students. The object of the competition is to simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges. Each team is competing to have its design accepted for manufacture by a fictitious firm. The students must function as a team to design, build, test, promote and compete a vehicle within the limits of the rules, also to generate financial support for their project and manage their educational priorities.
Drafted ATV image
Each team’s goal is to design and build a prototype of a rugged, single seat, off-road recreational vehicle intended for sale to the non-professional weekend off-road enthusiast. The vehicle must be safe, easily transported, easily maintained and fun to drive. It should be able to negotiate rough terrain without damage. As of 2010, the SAE Baja Series consisted of three competitions, though in the past there have been as many as seven sanctioned events. A Baja SAE competition event consists of three to four days.