School of Computing and Engineering Baja SAE team takes first in prestigious competition event

June 14, 2022

A School of Computing and Engineering student-built vehicle in competition

The Quinnipiac Baja SAE team shocked the competition earlier this month when it raced past nearly 80 rivals and finished first in the sled pull event in one of the most prestigious collegiate competitions in the world. Many of the competitors have had a program for decades.

The team — competing for the first time this year — was established three years ago by six students in the School of Computing and Engineering. They successfully created an all-wheel drive, off-road vehicle capable of going up to nearly 30 miles per hour.

The team — comprised of Sam Deleel '22, John (Jack) Murray '22, Zachariah Polak '22, Ryan Johnson ’22, Jake Fitzpatrick ’24, Alex Petrarca ’21, and Jeffrey Davis ‘21 — ultimately designed a single-seat, buggy-style vehicle with automatic transmission.

“The team was definitely successful this year because of Jack’s leadership of the team,” said Lynn Byers, interim dean of the School of Computing and Engineering. “One of the best parts for me is the pride and excitement of the students seeing all of their hard work coming together and performing so well.”

Murray, a mechanical engineering major, said although winning was great, he really enjoyed the collaboration among his team — and the other teams.

“Being able to win as a school participating in our first-ever competition was a huge reward for all the time that both the students and the Quinnipiac faculty who were assisting us had put in,” Murray said. “The competition had an amazing atmosphere; everyone was extremely nice and helpful. Every team was willing to lend you tools or give you extra parts if needed. The most impressive part was that although it was a competition all the teams were consistently supporting one another and rooting for each other to do well.”

Alexander Petrarca ’21, a mechanical engineering major, was the team’s lead designer and inspiration to compete in the first place. He currently works in the aerospace industry in California.

“One of the best things about Baja is how collaborative it is,” she said. “Some of the teams have trailers of tools and generators and welding equipment. There were a number of teams that pitched in throughout the competition to help our team.”

The first year, the team designed the vehicle. The second year, the team built a vehicle but wasn’t quite ready for competition — and so made it competition-ready in the third year.

“It’s mechanical engineering all rolled up into one awesome project — design, fabrication and designing for specific criteria,” she said. “It’s everything they learned in a single project.”

The team — although consisting of students from the School of Computing and Engineering this year — is open to students from throughout the entire university.

Byers thanked members of the facilities, and marketing and communications teams, for their support throughout the project. She also thanked Professor Jose Riofrio for advising the team, Fabrication Support Specialist Dennis Hanlon for his support and Professor Justin Kile for supporting the start of the program.

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