Three Experiences with UR Baja

Mario Gutierrez, Class of 2019

Studying at the University of Rochester has been one of the biggest challenges in my life. I’m proud to be part of the Hajim School of Engineering, and even though I’m a freshman, I’ve already learned a lot of things. While I strongly believe that going to classes and getting good grades are important for my education, I think that in order to become a well-rounded engineer, getting some hands-on experience is vital. That’s why I decided to join UR Baja, a student group that manufactures an off-road car for a competition organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Mario Picture

Although at first I thought it was just another group that likes to compete with other schools, I found out that UR Baja is more about learning and having a real engineering experience. Since the beginning, I took note of the team’s leadership structure. Project Team Leaders (PTLs) were in charge of making us freshmen feel more comfortable so that we could find a place on the team. I quickly found out that my place was with the frame team, which is in charge of the design and production of the car’s chassis.

I was very motivated because the team was planning to attend an event called Midnight Mayhem, a friendly competition held in Kentucky where teams tested their cars and introduced freshmen to what a real Baja event looks like. The challenge was clear, getting three cars that would work for Midnight Mayhem, which was one month away. I helped the team with the assembly of some parts, and learned how to fix the brakes on one of the cars. I was very excited when I learned I made it onto the list of attending members.

Midnight Mayhem not only introduced me to the real feel of a Baja event, but also to the road trip experience. I had a lot of fun and met new people who had similar goals and objectives. I was able to drive the car and see how other teams solved engineering problems. Baja helped me understand that failure is just another part of engineering; you have to fall in love with failure in order to embrace success. I learned that Baja is not only a club, it’s a community of people that share the same passion for engineering, learning, and teamwork. I met people that helped me answer the questions and uncertainties that I had about my career. I feel more confident because I know that Baja will help me get the job I want. I still have a lot of things to learn, but I’m ready and motivated to work with the team for the upcoming events.

Kansas car

Oscar Ta, Class of 2018

My name is Oscar Ta and I am a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering. By being a part of Baja, I have gained hands-on skills and knowledge of the manufacturing process through milling, lathing, and (soon) welding. Within the mechanical engineering curriculum at the University, students learn Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. I had an early introduction to FEA and CAD from my senior teammates in Baja; this gave me context to the classroom material in my mechanical engineering classes. I’ve gained so much through Baja, and I look forward to being able to share the same and more with my younger teammates.

Group Mayhem Pic


Scott Saucier, Class of 2019

Joining the UR Baja team has been one of the best things I have done during my time here. Not only is it fun, but it has helped me gain real world skills. Although I didn’t have much in the way of mechanical skills at the onset, I have learned a great deal thanks to the guidance and assistance of many talented upperclassmen.

In addition to mechanical skills, I’m also learning research and presentation techniques by working with the sponsorship chair, as well as people and leadership skills from the other team members. All of these learning opportunities and many more have presented themselves in Baja, attributing to my passion in the team.

Cars at Mayhem

While it has only been a little over a semester, I have already had many memorable experiences with the Baja team. The most important was going to Midnight Mayhem. I was able to see all the cars built by different schools and how passionate the teams were about their cars. For someone who loves cars and racing, my time at Midnight Mayhem was incredible. Just being there was only topped by being able to drive our cars in the race. I have wanted to race for most of my life, so it was a dream come true. Being a member of the Baja team is an incredible learning experience and has been an important part of my experience so far here at Rochester. I have not been here long, but I love it and Baja has helped make my life here what it is.

About the author


URAdmissions features guest bloggers (both students and staff) who write about specialized programs, events, and opportunities at Rochester.

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