30 Jun 2018 3 minute read

Designed and Built an off-road vehicle for BAJA SAE India

Project Description

The RoadRunners team photo (2013)

Team: The RoadRunners

Role: Powertrain Engineer

Duration: January 2012 - June 2014

Advisor: Prof AK Babu and Prof Bhaskara Rao

Institute: Vellore Institute of Technology, Chennai - India


The RoadRunners is an engineering project team which designs, builds and races off road vehicles for BAJA SAE collegiate competition. The competition is broken down into static events and dynamic events. Static events consist of design, cost report, sales presentation and technical inspection. Dynamic events comprise of maneuverability course, an acceleration track and a hill climb. At the ends, there is a 4 hour endurance race, where participating teams race together.


Spacecrafts fascinate me, especially mission control and the team celebration after a successful launch. BAJA SAE provided an opportunity to live this experience: develop a design into a product under engineering and resource constraints through team effort. The stakes were high since the car simply had to get built! Period.

BAJA SAE was my first opportunity to be a part of the complete product development cycle - design, build and test through collective collaboration. It was an exciting and daunting time since this was a startup - we were the first team from our college. It provided an opportunity to approach engineering problems from cost, sales and ergonomics point of view. A typical day would comprise of SolidWorks FEA simulation of gears, selecting flux for MIG welding, coordinating logistics to import transmission components and fundraising.

Challenges faced

I faced and navigated challenges which all organizations encounter. BAJA SAE has been the most challenging (consequently, most memorable) experience till date

  1. Money! (like most startups, we engaged in extensive fundraising efforts)

  2. Conformance to BAJA SAE design rules and SAE safety standards (Eg: no engine modifications, top speed limit, fuel inlet design, rollcage material testing )

  3. Vendor engagement

  4. Team dynamics

  5. Design for X (X: cost, weight, performance, endurance)

  6. Recruit and mentor the next generation to ensure continuity


The RoadRunners 1.0 BAJA SAE car SolidWorks CAD model The RoadRunners 1.0 BAJA SAE car rollcage The RoadRunners 1.0 BAJA SAE car


  1. Manufacturing an off road vehicle gave me an understanding of the manufacturing challenges which motivated me to acquire knowledge of Lean tools (6 Sigma, PDCA, 5 Why and Root Cause analysis). This whitepaper is an outcome of this endeavor : Implementing Lean Manufacturing in the Indian automobile industry


  • Transmission assembly - spur gear, belt drive, shaft, bearing selection and chain drive calculations

  • 2D/3D engineering drawings, BOM in SolidWorks CAD

  • FEA analysis using SolidWorks Simulation

  • Project specifications to meet SAE standards

  • Troubleshoot mechanical issues using DFMEA and Root cause analysis (RCA)

  • Welding process selection and planning

  • Cost analysis and weight optimization


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