University News

Mayor Sarno’s Visit to Western New England University's Baja Club Showcases Student Innovation and Excellence

Published: November 27, 2023 | Categories: All News, Engineering, President
Baja SAE Club

Western New England University President Robert E. Johnson welcomed Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, for an exciting visit to the campus to witness the innovative work of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja Club operated through the College of Engineering. This student organization is dedicated to enhancing students' design, building, and business skills through the creation of custom-built, off-road vehicles.

The SAE Baja Club challenges college teams worldwide to design, manufacture, and compete in annual competitions. The Baja vehicle undergoes rigorous testing, including acceleration, suspension, maneuverability, hill climb, and a four-hour endurance race. Additionally, teams are evaluated on their vehicle design through a review session and a sales presentation to mock investors. Through these events, students develop skills that they can use both in the classroom and the workforce.

Mayor Sarno had the opportunity to engage with the students in their workspace, gaining insight into their hands-on approach to designing, manufacturing, and building the Baja vehicle. The club is open to all members of the WNE community, regardless of their major.

President Robert E. Johnson expressed his pride in the College of Engineering, citing its remarkable achievements, including a 100% job placement rate, the highest incoming class in a decade, and internship programs with local institutions such as Advanced Manufacturing and Pratt & Whitney.

"The SAE Baja Club exemplifies the spirit of innovation and hands-on learning that defines the educational experience at Western New England University,” said President Johnson. “Witnessing the dedication and creativity of our students as they design, build, and compete with their off-road vehicles is inspiring. This club is a shining example of the experiential education that sets our College of Engineering apart, preparing our students for success in their future careers, especially in this advanced welding field. I am proud of their achievements and look forward to seeing their continued excellence on a national stage."

Conner Bogle, Treasurer and Director of Outreach for the SAE Baja Club, shared his perspective on the visit, stating, "Being part of the Baja Club has been an incredible journey. It's not just about constructing a vehicle; it's about cultivating skills that will undoubtedly shape our future careers. Having Mayor Sarno and President Johnson here to witness our efforts is truly motivating and reinforces the significance of hands-on learning." 

The SAE Baja Club is currently constructing a new 4-wheel drive vehicle that will be taken to next year’s national championship competition.

Mayor Sarno states, “What a tremendous job the engineering students at WNE have done building this off-road vehicle. President Johnson has already taken it for a test drive and proudly stated what a wonderful job the students have done. This real-world experience is wonderful. This team building work also allows the students to learn and experience the full business model from marketing, financing, testing, production and operation. I am looking forward to seeing their final product and will be cheering them on as they take their home-built off-road vehicle to the Baja competitions in Pennsylvania in May 2024.” 

While on campus, Mayor Sarno also viewed the steel bridge built by the Western New England student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The team of nine members scored third place at the 2023 Regional Student Steel Bridge Competition and advanced to the National Competition this past spring.