El Paso, TX (UTEP) — It’s an exciting engineering challenge that was last at The University of Texas at El Paso in 1998. This time 100 teams from around the world – about 1,500 participants – are gearing up to get dirty and prove their vehicle’s abilities.
In April 2013, UTEP received official word it would host the first Baja Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)  competition of 2014. Nearly one year, later the stage is just about ready for the 66 national and 34 international teams that will compete.
“It is an honor for us to bring this event back to UTEP after a 16-year hiatus,” said College of Engineering Dean Richard Schoephoerster, Ph.D. “Our terrain is natural for a baja competition, and this is a great opportunity to showcase the University, and our faculty and students, during our Centennial year celebration.”
The Baja SAE competition challenges student teams to design, plan and manufacture a safe off-road vehicle that can maneuver a variety of obstacles in a rugged environment. The design competition parallels the actual process of bringing a new product to the consumer market. The collegiate teams compete to have their design and entry accepted for manufacture by a fictitious firm.
This year, UTEP’s engineering students fielded two teams — a first for the program. Both under the Mad Pete Motorsports name, one team consists of experienced students and the other of first-time participants. The first-time participants will use the frame from last year’s competition while the experienced team has started building the vehicle from scratch.
“I got hooked on Baja SAE my sophomore year of college and I have been participating in this competition since 2007,” said Sergio Maldonado, Baja SAE UTEP 2014 project coordinator and engineering graduate research assistant. “As participants, every team dreams about hosting this competition on their home turf. It’s a great opportunity to showcase our University, highlight our community, but most importantly it is an opportunity to enhance our students’ education.”
In addition to durability, reliability and performance, teams must consider cost and appearance. Over the last year, UTEP members have compiled materials and cost estimates, presented a budget review to faculty in the College of Engineering, and reviewed vehicle designs with professors.
During the four-day event, each vehicle will undergo rigorous tests, including top speed, how well the vehicle accelerates, brakes, can climb a rocky hill and maneuvers.
The last day will test the vehicles’ endurance through a four-hour race. The course for the endurance race was designed to try and eliminate 60 percent of the competitors; theoretically leaving only 40 remaining contestants.
The event may also open the doors for students to be recruited by event sponsors and judges, including companies like Honda, Polaris, General Motors and Lockheed Martin.
The Saturday April 26 and Sunday, April 27 events  located behind the UTEP Student Recreation Center are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.
The two other Baja SAE events that will take place this year will be at the University of Kansas and the University of Illinois.
Maps and information: http://bajasae2014.utep.edu