Baja Club Stays Low in Plumas


Baja Club students working on their car. Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

Every Monday and Wednesday, dozens of students arrive in the parking lot located in Plumas Hall, discussing, experimenting, engineering and getting their hands dirty on the old version of their car for Baja Club.

A baja club student working on a car part. Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

The Baja Club has been working on their cars until as late as four in the morning. They use what they learn in class for competitions against other schools across the nation.

Baja Club is part of the Baja Society of Automotive Engineers, a global organization specializing in getting engineering students to work together to create an off-road vehicle designed to navigate rough terrain.

Chico State has been a part of SAE Baja since 1986, where they have designed a new car every year and compete with other schools.

Perrey Cheney joined Baja Club two years ago when he came to Chico. He doesn’t remember whether he saw them at Wildcat Welcome or Choose Chico Day. He does remember thinking that Baja was cool.

“I saw it and I was like ‘These seem cool they know what they’re doing real engineering work, applying everything they’re learning in class,” Cheney, who is now the president of the Baja club said.

Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

The club is split up by different groups of students working together on one part for their car. Areas of practice featured include:

  • Chassis
  • Suspension
  • Steering
  • CVT
  • Gearbox
  • Data Acquisition
  • Brakes and Throttle
  • Ergonomics


“The club’s main purpose is to supplement all the students for applying what they learned in engineering coursework. That’s kind of the whole premise of why Baja exist as an international organization,” Cheney said.

The club organizes into their own sub-teams for each part of the car, letting younger students understand what design work is being done since it is master level coursework.

An Arduino board used on the car. Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

Last semester, the Baja Club entered two competitions, there are only three official competitions throughout the year. In SAE Baja-Midwest, the 2019 Tennessee competition, their car got 12th place out of 89 and their suspension won second place.

The Baja Club designs a new car every year. The rules could change every year, such as getting bonus points for including four-wheel drive.

Desirae Jones is the main driver and the suspension lead for the car, and currently they are going through the geometry of the car. According to Jones, if the suspension is weak, then the car could get easily damaged.

She has been in the Baja Club for five years. According to Cheney, she is the smallest and lightest person, despite the fact that she has been the club the longest.

“We all just like it that’s it! That’s it!” Jones said. “You almost learn more in this club than you do in classes because you get to apply what you’re learning and it honestly helps you more with getting jobs or internships.”

Another reason Jones is the main driver is because she has had experience with off-road racing, seeing the car go from 600 pounds to today where it is 300 pounds.

“It’s super beneficial,” Jones said. “It’s definitely helped me and it can help any freshman that’s thinking about joining, definitely do it!”.

Julian Mendoza can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JulianMTheOrion.