Baja SAE, an intercollegiate engineering design competition for undergraduate and graduate students, was first conducted in 1976 at the university of South Carolina. The objective of the event till date remains to design, build, test, promote and compete a rugged, single seat, off-road recreational prototype vehicle. The event made its debut in India only in 2007 when 27 teams, financially supported by the then event organizers, led by Dr Pawan Goenka of Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), conducted it at NATRiP, Pithampur. After 12 years, 2019 Baja SAE India got more than 400 entries from across the country and a hundred other enthusiasts who participated in the event as judges or volunteers.
This year, the event at Natrip Pithampur saw more than 40 sponsors led by M&M and agencies like ARAI, AICTE, ASDC and NATRiP. Other event partners include Altair, Anand Automotives, Ansys, AVL, Bharat Petroleum, BKT, Bosch, Briggs & Stratton, Chitkara University, Continental, Compage Automation Systems, Cummins, Eleation, Faurecia, GM, IAC, iCAT, ITW Chemin, IIT Ropar, IIST, Lear, L&T, LNCT, Math Works, Medanta Hospital, MP Consulting, MSC Software, MY FM, NATRiP, OYO Rooms, Padmini Engineering, Power Equipment, Trim India, Radisson Hotels, TFM ,Think Creative Solutions, Varroc and V J Production.
The 2019 edition saw 120 teams take part in mBaja (vehicle with conventional engines) and 50 took part in eBaja (electric vehicles). Out of the 120, 85 qualified for the endurance race and 22 out of 50 qualified for the eBaja endurance race. SAE India is also conducting the second edition of the 2019 chapter at IIT Ropar in March. The organisers have announced that they are planning to organise a third chapter in the year at IIT Madras.
The four-day event started with basic static evaluation round which comprised of design evaluation, cost evaluation and marketing presentation. In the final round, the teams showcased their prototype of a rugged single seat, off-road recreational four-wheel vehicle and were evaluated on various parameters, including engineering design, CAE, cost and technology innovation.
Institute of Technology, Nirma University from Ahmedabad was declared the ‘Best eBAJA Team’ and Govt. College of Engineering from Pune was declared the ‘Best mBAJA Team’. Various other awards to the teams for static events were presented. MIT, Pune and Shri Vishnu Engineering College of Women from Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh bagged the Engineering Design award for mBAJA and eBAJA respectively.NIT Jamshedpur won the Go Green- Emissions Award. The total prize amount was Rs 32 lakh from Baja SAE India 2019 Pithampur.
Grooming industry-ready talent
The convenors of Baja SAE India do not treat this event as just another competition, but mostly as a talent hunting ground. This is one of those few events in the country that gives the students an opportunity to participate in interviews and the companies to make a detailed evaluation of the candidates’ skillset. The event has set up an ecosystem of its own where several universities and colleges have upgraded their workshops to meet the standards of the Baja event.
There is also Baja Aptitude Test (BAT) that calls for the required minimum aptitude from the participating students. Around 3000 students participate in these tests that consists of a combination of questions from engineering, general aptitude and psychometry. Students use the score of these tests in their resume which further enhances their scope while applying for jobs. All these students are certified as eligible for not just the core automotive OEMs, but also for the component and the manufacturing industry.
One of the alumni volunteers commented that the event is not just a place where engineers are groomed, it is a place where leaders are groomed with management skills, including marketing, team work, analysis.
Setting the stage for the future
SAE India were the first to conduct eBaja in 2015 after it was suggested to them by the former President late APJ Abdul Kalam. An eBaja carries almost the same specifications as an mBaja with a major difference obviously being the electric powertrain. In the initial years, Mahindra Electric lend a huge support to the participant of eBaja by conducting a two day training programme for them at their facility in Bangalore. The teams were supplied with a complete kit from Mahindra Electric initially. However, this year, the teams were given the choice of sourcing their electric kits on their own. While the endurance test for mBaja is conducted for four hours, the endurance test for eBaja is conducted for 2 hours.
The biggest revelation that came from 2019 Baja SAE India came from the fact that this year they saw vehicles that were built as light as 121 kg. This is claimed to be the lightest Baja vehicle in the world. Some of the participants have already claimed that their vehicles would become even more lighter by the next year.
The convenors of the event used the stage to announce that Autonomous Baja (aBaja) is also in the pipeline and they are currently looking at its feasibility. The rule books and the standards are being set for aBaja and the announcements for the same could arrive soon.