Favorite Baja Tradition

Why do we race with a “Black Ice” car air freshener on our car? How many Chris Plunkett stickers can you find on campus? With rituals / traditions like these, UR Baja continues to be the most interesting team on campus. We don’t always know the back story, but when we do, so will you! Click here to submit your favorite Baja ritual / tradition, and we will post our favorite ones in the next newsletter.

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By Yash Mehrotra (Team Captain, Team Helios Racing)

On the wake of its 10th anniversary, Team Helios Racing, the Baja team of RV College of Engineering, Bengaluru, India, decided to make its mark on the Baja world map after having an outstanding performance in the two Indian events, Baja Student India and Baja SAE India.

Soon after the decision was made to compete in Baja SAE Rochester event, one of the three international events of the Baja SAE series held in the USA, the team realized the herculean task of having their buggy sent over to the USA hassle-free and finding a place to assemble their buggy. They hired a local logistics company to aid them in their shipping efforts. Even though all the documents were handed over to the logistics company in time, the shipment arrived at the team’s host, University of Rochester a day late. This however, did not cause a lot of problems because the team had accounted for such delays from a very early stage of planning.

Nonetheless, the team got busy with assembling their buggy and for the University of Rochester’s Baja team put a considerable amount of effort to get permissions for allowing Team Helios Racing to use the fabrication studio at Rettner Hall to assemble their buggy. Both the teams were in touch and had detailed discussions regarding University of Rochester hosting Team Helios Racing from as early as January of 2016.

The Baja team of the University of Rochester was a blessing in disguise as they not only lent Team Helios Racing space to work on their buggy but also helped them move their buggy from University of Rochester to and from the event site, helped them in procuring a few components without which their participation in the competition was at risk.

It was noticed by them that the Baja competitions in the US are slightly different from the ones held in India with the technical inspection being more thorough, tougher tracks and an even tougher competition. Despite some minor hiccups during the technical inspections and the race itself, Team Helios Racing performed splendidly for a debut performance in one of the fiercest competitions of Baja in the world and even took home a souvenir in the form of an award for being the second fastest buggy in the competition.

Team Helios Racing would like to thank Yellowjacket Racing and the University of Rochester for their continuous support during and after the event.

See below for Team Helios’s Event Report


13735105_1341567619190012_2524404174156538010_oBy Michael Macfarlane (Mechanical Engineering, ’17)

I joined the team a year ago, as a junior who had recently switched majors from Biomedical Engineering to Mechanical Engineering. During my time with the team, I have attended three competitions and became the elected Suspension Project Team Lead (PTL). It is a lot to take in, but I have  definitely learned and grown during this period. At the time of writing, I have no idea what my colleagues are writing about, though I am fairly certain they are focusing more on the technical side of things or perhaps simply recounting the good times we all shared at the competitions (I for one certainly enjoyed every moment of both competitions). I, however, after discarding a great many drafts, ultimately settled on a topic completely different: the end goal we need to strive for, and why this goal and its associated mindset is important.

It all starts with an idea I had even before becoming a PTL, that we as a team need to believe that we can be the number one Baja team in the country, and that we must always strive towards that goal. This is not a view unique amongst this year’s leadership, as there are many others besides myself who share this sentiment. If there is  anything life has taught me, it is that complacency is the swiftest route to failure. The world is ever-changing, and anyone who dares to rest and revel in the fleeting successes of the moment will be swiftly overtaken and left behind. The University of Rochester’s motto is “Meliora”, meaning ever better. It is essential that we remember the meaning of that phrase and take it to heart.

Unfortunately, it’s quite common in competitive activities for people to believe that it’s not only okay to be mediocre, but that one should be perfectly happy with mediocrity. In the case of Baja, this would mean “just having fun and learning” are acceptable end goals. While I understand the intent behind such rationale is well-meaning, I vehemently disagree with it for practical reasons. It really boils down to this: people come to college because they want to better themselves and build a successful career. I will say this much about success: it does not come to those who are satisfied with being anything less than the best. The trials in life with no lasting consequences are not without meaning, because they are a chance for us to practice for the trials that will have permanent effects on our lives. There is an old adage, “practice like you play, and play like you practice,” and I can assure you that if you do not take practice seriously, then you will never take the real games seriously either. The same concept applies to Baja, if it is not taken seriously, if it is not viewed as a game to be won, then it is failing to teach students one of the most important and underrated lessons in life: what it takes to become successful. Moreover, building up the reputation of our team has some very real benefits: additional, more lucrative sponsorships, resume recognition for graduating members seeking jobs, and ultimately “flexing our engineering muscles.”

So what does this mean for the 2016-2017 season? Simple, it is all about achieving success in the future. The only goal I have as Suspension PTL that will be accomplished during my time here is having a working suspension for competition, but there are many ideas I have that won’t be realized during my senior year. The Class of 2016 was the class that revitalized a team, that was their legacy. The Class of 2017 will be remembered as the group that laid the foundation of a winning team. By expanding our knowledge base through reaching out to alumni, by investing heavily in the recruiting and education of underclassman, and by making better use of older cars, we will create a team that will challenge the best Baja has to offer. This will be our legacy, and I can think of nothing more deserving of my effort.



By Christopher Plunkett (Biomedical Engineering, ’16)

Entering college I was not entirely sure what to expect.  Having grown up in a small town, I was not entirely prepared for the bombardment of new clubs, activities, and social functions that college had to offer.  When walking through the campus activities fair I found myself immediately overwhelmed by the possibilities.  However, one booth immediately stood out as one of the most exciting and new activities that I could be a part of.  The possibilities that this group seemed to offer were too fascinating to pass up and I soon found myself on the mailing list ready for a general interest meeting.  I’m sure you have already guessed which booth that was.   

I joined the Baja team as a true novice in engineering, and motorsports in general.  It was only by luck and the persuasive arguments of former member Kim Heng (’14) that I found myself at the shop for the first of many Saturday mornings ready to start work.  It was during this year that I met some of my first friends at the University of Rochester and began to fully appreciate the craftsmanship and hard work of industrial manufacturing.  I took a liking to arc welding; a job I would fulfill for the team for all four years of college.  The work was always a challenge but after a hard year of work and a week of very little sleep, we left Rochester bright and early for what would be my first competition.  The trip to Tennessee was an amazing experience filled with late night car work, cheese barns, and some all you can eat catfish.  However what really drew me closer to the team was the passion that everyone showed for the vehicle.  It was the kind of dedication that could only come from a year of work and was truly inspiring.  After that wild Tennessee competition I was definitely hooked on Baja.  

Over the next two years I would take on the role of the frame project lead where I was able to hone my design, planning, and project management skills.  I was responsible for two years of chassis design where the link between engineering coursework and hands on construction became very apparent.  It was also during this time that I began to realize how important Baja would be to my career goals and aspirations.  With the skills I gained on the team and the help of our team’s wonderful adviser Professor Sheryl Gracewski, new opportunities for summer research fellowships and industry internships became possible.  It was because of this exposure to mechanical engineering that I began to shift my focus away toward a more engineering heavy career.  Now that I have embarked on that path post grad, I am confident that my decision to move in this direction was best for me.  

Competition also introduced me to students from around the country and the world.  Baja truly inspired a sense of global community across all teams.  If another team needed anything, whether it be a washer to an arc welder, there would always be someone to step up.  Our team benefited from plenty of this help and the generosity and kindness of the Baja community left a profound impact on me.  But even before we befriended new teams at competition, we had become a family back at home.  The joy of working with individuals who are both incredibly motivated and wonderfully friendly and open makes even the most challenging of projects a pleasure.  In truth my favorite part of the Baja season was always the start of a new year as it would signal the start of many new friendships that would be among the closest I would have in college.  We would enjoy late night food together, watch movies together, play badminton together, and travel coast to coast together in an epic road trip to Portland, Oregon during my junior year.  It is these and the countless other memories of good times with friends from Baja that I will remember for the rest of my life.  These bonds, forged by a collective will to engineer a superior vehicle, can never be broken.     

The beauty of Baja is a mutual sense of passionate and sometimes downright insane dedication to the club shared by its members.  While grueling all night welding sessions and marathon design review meetings seemed exhausting, you could not help but come away from them feeling closer to your teammates, more confident in yourself, and wanting to get back in the shop the next morning to keep pushing forward.  It is a feeling that many have shared throughout the history of the team and that will drive us ahead as.  Even now, as I continue on to the next phase of my engineering career, I am constantly reminded of the skills and lessons I have learned while a part of this club.  The friends I have made, support I have received and the happiness I have shared while a part of this organization is something I will always cherish.  I hope to stay in touch with this team that has given me so much and I will be eager to watch as new team members take the lead and raise our racing club even greater heights.  I look forward to see what other great things the team will accomplish, but above all else I look forward to seeing the sense of teamwork, determination, friendship and passion for achievement in the efforts of Baja members for years to come.  So from the bottom of my heart thank you Yellowjacket Racing.  You have given myself and countless other students some of the best times of our lives.



By Dylan Borruso (Optics, ’19)

My first year on the Baja team started in January, immediately after winter break.  I had decided that I had failed to try anything new during the first semester of my freshman year and the club fair was going on, so I went out to see if there were any groups on campus I wanted to try getting involved in.  At some point someone in a racing helmet gave me a slip of paper giving the time and location of a general interest meeting for the Baja team.  A week later I was sitting in the Hopeman conference room learning about this group on campus that built weird little off-road cars and raced them.  After getting a tour of the shop I decided I was going to show up that weekend to see if there was anything I could do.  The details of my first weekend in the shop are unexciting; I had not completed my shop safety course and could only watch as other members worked on parts.  It was not much longer before I was helping machine parts.

Fast forward a few months. The car is nearing completion and I was much more involved with the team at this point.  There were so many positive experiences I had in those few months that I wanted more people to experience Baja.  I volunteered to go to a few events held for prospective students and talk about the Baja team.  Each time we would push the car across campus, or lug a box of random parts from the drivetrain cabinet to wherever the event was being held to draw attention to our table.  It will be interesting to see if those events had any success in drawing new members when I get back to campus in the fall.  I had pretty good at pitching the club to people interested in engineering those not interested in it.  The casual observer does not realize it but Baja has valuable experiences for everyone.  I also had the opportunity to hear more senior members of the team talk about the car a lot.  These events were probably the time I learned the most about how the car works besides competition.

Going to my first completion was an amazing experience. The drive to Cookeville Tennessee was longer than any I had taken and in a larger group than I had ever traveled with.  I have never experienced a more varied selection of music in one sitting.  There are so many memories I have from competition. For example, trying to get the breaks working for just long enough to pass dynamic braking despite the hours and hours of work that went into them before competition.  Or my time on carnage crew during endurance race.  Tennessee was probably one of the most memorable experiences of my freshman year. My friends are probably tired of me telling stories from that trip, but that’s fine because I aim to come back from future competitions with more stories to tell.  

The competition in Rochester in June was an equally positive experience.  I remember staying up in Rettner because the team we were hosting from India was working there.  Spending time with the Indian team was a great experience.  I have always been impressed by the cars that teams put together but watching Team Helios put their car together from scratch in that short a time was just crazy.  Sitting near them during the prize ceremony where they took second in acceleration was great.  With my experiences from Cookeville and Rochester I look forward to the opportunity to attend more competitions with the team next year.   

I could not have asked for a better first year on the Baja team.  Although in some ways I still feel like I missed out on part of the whole first year experience.  Since I joined the team in January I didn’t get to experience any of the work that went on during the first semester.  I didn’t get to experience Midnight Mayhem.  I am looking forward to the fall when I go back to Rochester because I honestly can’t wait to see what I missed.  Next season is going to be amazing and I cannot wait to get started on the new car.  My first experiences and memories with the Baja team have been nothing but positive and I look forward to all the ones in my future.