PNW club designs vehicle and encourages students to join despite their major

The Baja club offers a hands-on learning experience that can help jump-start a career in science and Engineering.

“We are 100% student-led in the Baja club, and you get to use engineering in all aspects, from cost to design to actually using the vehicle,” said Peter Cowling club president.

“We have some advisors, but they are really good at letting us control our projects and not taking control,” he said. “It’s a blessed environment because everyone can learn from each other, and we are like a family, and we are really fortunate to have this opportunity.” 

Each year the team designs and builds a brand new vehicle. Then each car competes in Baja racing events that put the vehicles through torture tests.

 “At competitions, they design the tracks to destroy your vehicle. … At the first event I went to in Louisville there were like 93 teams there and every vehicle except for two broke,” said Cowling. 

Brian Scott who is in charge of the team’s frame and safety said that each track the team has visited is challenging.

“I have been in three competitions now and every single track is different, and they make them brutal,” said Scott. “I have seen cars towed and even carried back from the track because it couldn’t be towed.

“They want to see your car break and they want to see you go back to the pits and fix it because that is a part of the competition.”

The Baja club travels to several states to compete against hundreds of teams both nationally and internationally.

“We have traveled pretty much the whole country,” said Scott. “We have a lot to overcome throughout the year, but the competition itself is really one of the best moments of my life.”

Mechanical Engineer Technology major Milan Rahmani, who is brakes lead for the team, is new to the Baja club but feels he has gained knowledge that he will take into his career.

“Lots of companies specifically look for people that were in SAE clubs, and they want to see you have knowledge but also experience,” said Rahmani. “My major is more about the numbers and not the machinery aspect, but with Baja we learn how to manufacture along with our ability to design and calculate.”

Other students also find the experience useful.

“We are one of the most hands-on clubs, but we expect any majors, and you don’t need any knowledge about cars or design, we will teach you that,” said Scott. “We have a few members who were flown out to California for interviews with Tesla, so having a SAE program on your resume is huge.”