It’s crunch time for the Baja SAE student design team.

The 30-person crew put together mock-ups for their small offroad vehicle during the fall term and spent the winter term working hard to finish the build to have it race-ready for May.

It’s the first time the team has manufactured one of the dune-buggy-looking vehicles from the ground up in a few years, says team captain and final year Mechanical Engineering student Will Fraser. “It’s a big learning experience, but stuff is getting done. We’ve got a lot of people in the shop.”

They have big shoes to fill. The Queen’s Baja SAE team has been one of the most successful student design teams at Queen’s. Since the group started building and racing single-seat ATVs against other university teams in the early 1970s, it has consistently finished in the top twenty at international races where there can be over a hundred other competitors.

Fraser doesn’t sound intimidated. Probably because he was part of last year’s team that placed thirteenth at a competition in Cookeville, Tennessee, and twentieth at another in Rochester, New York.

It also helps that the team has such a strong history with building the 300-pound vehicles. “The work is pretty iterative,” says Fraser (wearing black t-shirt, in the photos). “We’re going to take last year’s vehicle, look at what worked well, what didn’t, and tweak accordingly.”




Elly Jones is part of the sub-crew working on the chassis and ergonomics. The second-year Mechanical Engineering student says she wasn’t really into offroad vehicles before joining the team, but when she learned about Baja SAE at a campus fair, she was hooked. “It looked like it would be a ton of fun learning about the mechanics of how this works and how to put together a car and then go to competition,” she says. “So, I just thought, ‘Why not?’”

The upcoming competitions in Oshkosh, Wisconsin this month and Portland, Oregon in June will be Jones’ first with the team. As with most Baja SAE contests, there will be several events at each, including business and design presentations, and acceleration and maneuverability tests.

But the highlight of competition is always the endurance race, says Fraser. “We’re the only design team at Queen’s that does bumper-to-bumper racing. And so it’s a four-hour race where you usually have about 70 teams racing on a dirt track. The winner is whoever can travel the farthest.”

No one really loses on a design team, however, says Jones. She has found that whether you want to devote a little or a lot of time to a team, you will get something positive out of it. “It’s just great to get experience working with a group toward a final product and observing the whole design process from start to finish.”

Fraser agrees and has proven himself how valuable that experience can be. In 2021, he landed an internship at Honda doing prototype testing on new model vehicles. The Baja SAE experience had equipped him with the technical and team skills to do the job. Over the summer, he worked with Tesla Automotive, which led to an offer for a full-time job after he graduates.

For now, though, it’s back to the shop. He couldn’t be happier.

“You learn all of these engineering skills in class throughout undergrad, but then getting the chance to actually go out, apply them, and design something that you will then have to manufacture and test is just great,” says Fraser. “It really gives you an appreciation for the entire process and really just helps you understand what is and isn’t important in engineering.”





This article is relevant to the following Strategic Actions as defined in the Strategic Plan:

sa-6-3   sa-8-4