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Starting the Club

The inaugural Mini Baja event was held in 1976 and hosted by the University of South Carolina. This was the first competition in what would become SAE's Collegiate Design Series.[1] The very first team at UR was founded by Don Wilson in the 79-80 season, only 3 years after the competition was created. Prof. Burns described it as a way to keep him busy. The club was hosted the first year in Don's garage in town and moved the next year into the Optics Shop (gone -- now where Goergen Hall stands). The team was very active in the 80's with several large groups. The early cars were amphibious to compete in the East competitions (a boat hull design) and used skid-steer transmission and steering systems (likely sourced from MAX ATVs company located in Buffalo, NY now owned by Mudd-Ox).

Tim Takahashi, an undergrad and PhD student, helped bridge the gap into the 90's. Around 1993 the club went inactive.

2nd Generation

Records show that UR fielded two cars at the same competition in 1995, ending the lapse in competition attendance. It is likely they brought a newly designed and built car in addition to a car from before the club's lapse of activity or perhaps a car from 1994 (for which we have no records). In 1998 the Mini-Baja club might have been part of a senior design project with Prof. Gans.

In the late 1990's and early 2000's UR was known as one of the few teams that successfully used welded aluminum roll cages to lightweight their vehicles. Rule changes in the mid 2000's requiring steel frames and a cracked frame in the 2002 (or 2003?) car's aluminum frame ended that era. Also around this time the UR Baja club was one of the first teams to go to multiple competitions according to Tom Tighe, an RIT FSAE alumni. [2]

UR cars ran independent front and rear suspensions in the late 1990's and early 2000's, but the team switched to a swing-arm rear suspension in 2006 in part due to the success of the University of South Florida and Tennessee Tech. University's cars beginning sometime around the 2003 competition. The other reason for the design change was that the 2006 outgoing seniors worried about simplifying the design to improve the odds that their few returning members would be able to keep the team alive in the following years.

3rd Generation

After suffering a major turnover in membership and a low count of returning members in the falls of 2006 and 2007, President David Moiseev (class of 2010) rebooted the team in early spring of 2008. This young and inexperienced team comprised of freshmen and sophomores accomplished the impossible by designing, building, and taking a car to competition in 2008 on a greatly compacted schedule (approximately 3 months total). The team continued to field swing-arm cars through 2010, and in 2011 switched design to an H-arm rear suspension under the leadership of President Brandon Martindale. Also in 2011 the team introduced a planetary and chain drive reduction as part of a Senior Design project led by David No. Most of the top teams had moved back to independent rear suspensions in the prior two years as the maneuverability performance losses of the swing-arm design surpassed the advantages from simplicity. UR's 2012 car saw the introduction of a multi-link rear suspension and a modular transmission reduction box. The DNA of the 2011 and later cars did not change much from year to year, demonstrating a maturity of design leadership to make strategic and focused design changes instead of high-risk wholesale redesign.

4th Generation

Following rule changes in the 2019-2020 season, four-wheel drive was introduced as a design consideration for seasons to come. For the 2019-2020 season, though 4WD was not required, any team that was successful in getting power to all four wheels would automatically receive 70 points, as well as an additional 20 bonus points for each dynamic event the team participates in, totaling 150 bonus points to the team's individual score. For the 2020-2021 season, 4WD was going to be mandatory in order to compete. However, following the shut down of schools all over the world due to the coronavirus, all SAE competitions were moved online and the 2019-2020 rules were carried over for the 2020-2021 season.


  • Professor Roger Gans (19##-19##, 2007)
  • Professor Vic Genberg (19##-19##)
  • Professor Stephen Burns (19##-19##)
  • Ken Adams from the University Instrument Machine Shop (19##-19##)
  • Professor Ricardo Betti (19##-19##)
  • Professor Sheryl Gracewski (19##-2006, 2008-current)
  • Professor Chris Muir (20##- current)


  1. [1], History of Baja North American Competitions
  2. Tom Tighe is an RIT FSAE alumni that lived with many of the UR Baja team members during college. Patrick Lewis ('06) worked with Tom Tighe at General Motors Fuel Cell Activities in Honeoye Falls, NY and heard a few entertaining stories about the UR team members from him.