Teams of student engineers from universities all over the world will flock to Rochester, New York to put both their creative and engineering skills to the test in the 40th Annual Mini Baja Competition. For the first time ever, 25 students from the School of Engineering will be representing Fairfield at the event.

Anyone interested could join the Fairfield team. The two captains, Karim Kharbouch ‘17 and Emily Yale ‘18, select the team who will travel to the competition based upon meeting attendance and contributions.
This competition, run by The Society of Automotive Engineers will test each teams’ mini baja, a dune buggy-like vehicle. These bajas will be tested on their ability to withstand hill climbs, four hour endurance tests and other strenuous events.

SAE is a globally active professional association and standards organization for engineering professionals in various industries ranging from aerospace, automotive and commercial vehicles.
Fairfield decided to compete in this competition for several reasons.

“There was a group of students last year that were interested in the SAE Baja program, they approached the Dean and the ball started rolling from there,” said Yale.

Kharbouch said, “One of the main reasons we are doing this is because it mimics the nature of teamwork and requirements that one would be faced with in an engineering company.”
The team is excited not only for the event, but for the process that goes into building the baja. Yale said, “We are most excited for building the car. As engineers, we find nothing more fun than taking a pile of metal and transforming it into a working machine.”
The cost of building one of these cars is not only difficult, but expensive as well. The rough estimate to build a mini baja is around $10,000, according to Kharbouch. Luckily, for the team members, the University agreed to sponsor them and cover the costs.

“We made a very good case to the school,” Kharbouch said. “Not only do we have to design, build and think about every single component in this car from nut A to bolt Z, but we have to also document all the costs and provide a very intricate cost report because this is also about creating a sellable prototype.”
This competition is extremely important to the team members.

Kharbouch said, “It is a substantial competition that requires the dedication of everyone involved as we must also keep up with our school work.”

Junior engineering major Max Mentonis said, “I think it’s great Fairfield is doing it. The only reason I’m not participating is because I have to keep up with my internship.”

Professor Robert Wojna is the team’s faculty advisor. He is overseeing Fairfield’s progress with the car, but he is not allowed to help with its design or fabrication.

I have many years of involvement in activities involving cars and motorcycles. I have owned sports cars and muscle cars and eleven motorcycles- nine Harleys,” Wojna said. He added that “The project is going well. The students have a great knowledge of and passion for cars.”
The event will take place from June 9 to June 12.

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