SAE Baja race homemade cars


Two club members welding metal. Photo courtesy by Carson Schmeck.

Daniel Theobald

Out of the numerous clubs on campus, Chico State’s off-road engineering club stands as an example of how students can implement their skills for direct and practical use.

The club is known as SAE Baja and focuses on constructing single-seater race cars designed for off-roading. Eduardo Herrero, junior and mechanical engineering major recently joined the club and was attracted to the hands-on experience.

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Two club members welding metal. Photo courtesy by Carson Schmeck.


He said what interested him in this club was building something from scratch

“From the sketch to an actual manufactured project, that was really interesting to me,” Herrero said.

Every year, the Chico SAE Baja competes against other teams from schools globally. From designing and developing to actually constructing, testing and promoting the car, the whole project is student-led.

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Club members working on the car. Photo courtesy by Carson Schmeck.


“The actions you take in this club have actual consequences,” Vice President Carson Schmeck said. “If something breaks or fails, it’s more high stakes.”

No members of the team have suffered injuries so far because of the car’s cage-like design. The team emphasises safety in their work and on the road for their students.

Schmeck has been a member for five semesters and felt the experiences he’s gained from working in the club have greatly benefitted his future job perspectives by providing him with confidence during interviews.

“People told me that it’s good for getting jobs afterwards and I didn’t understand that until I started applying for jobs,” Schmeck said.

Ultimately, the finished product will be presented to a group of judges who act as a fictitious company. Students have the opportunity to gain firsthand experience on working as future engineers in a real world business situation.

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Front shot of the car. Photo credit: Daniel Theobald


Prior to joining, active president Shane Ahlers, a junior and mechanical engineering major, had some experience but none with design. He said working on such a project with a team was something he loved.

Though the club may seem geared toward engineers, various majors are needed for the success of the overall project. SAE Baja is comprised of multiple sections including design, promotion, business and finances.

“We really like business majors to be involved because of the business aspect of the competition,” Treasurer Aaron Heagerty said. “We have a lot of project managing involved and financing as far as accounting and fundraising is concerned.”

Different departments are working hand in hand combining their expertise to provide the best product possible in order to succeed in the international competition.

“It’s really hands-on,” Herrera said. “You can jump in with little to no knowledge and at the end of the year you’ll come out with a lot more than what you came in.”

Daniel Theobald can be reached at news[email protected] or @dtheobald_ on Twitter.