Gearing up for Competition Season: Q&A with Liz Clifford, Team Captain of the SAE Baja Team


The team has a busy competition season, first going to Tennessee, then Rochester, then California. What gives the Zips a competitive advantage?

The car features a remodeled custom brake system as well as a tuned power train to give the vehicle an extra edge. We also cut weight from the vehicle and simplified parts so that we have a faster acceleration.

What is being tested exactly and how are winners determined?

Competition consists of both static and dynamic events. The total competition is out of 1,000 points and whoever has the most at the end is declared the winner. Static events include sales and design presentation and prototype cost. Dynamic events consist of maneuverability, suspension, acceleration and hill climb/sled pull to test the handling, acceleration and torque of the vehicle. The last day is the endurance race, a four-hour head-to-head race with 110 other Baja vehicles.

What are your predictions for competition?

The Zips are looking forward to another competitive season and hoping to stay at the top of the pack!

How many total team hours would you estimate went into making the car?

We had t-shirts made one year “10,000+ hours to build, and four to destroy.” That about sums up Baja. We have 40 members that on average put in 15 hours a week and we started in June of 2018.

Have there been any upgrades or changes to the car from last year’s model?

This year’s vehicle focuses on simplifying the designs to reduce the prototype cost as well as optimized tires, the power train, and reduced weight.

These are your last competitions since you are graduating this spring. What will you miss most about the team?

I will miss the slap happy times when we’ve been in the room for far too long and get laughing at something crazy. I will also miss competitions. I love seeing how the car stacks up versus our competition.

What are your plans when you graduate?

After I graduate I will be attending The University of Akron’s doctoral program for mechanical engineering.

Good luck to Liz and the SAE Baja team at their upcoming competitions: Baja SAE Tennessee Tech (April 11-14, 2019), Baja SAE Rochester (June 6-9, 2019), and Baja SAE California (May 16-19, 2019).