Marquette’s chapter of Society of Automotive Engineers returns to off-road racing with student-built vehicle

While much of Wisconsin hunkered down for a snowstorm during the last weekend of January, a crew of 13 Marquette students hit the road from Engineering Hall for an all-day, off-road racing showdown. On Saturday, Jan. 28, Marquette’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja team, Eagle Racing, tested their grit against 43 other collegiate teams in Michigan Tech’s aptly named Blizzard Baja competition. Eagle Racing placed fifth in the slalom race and 22nd in the endurance race in the team’s first race since 2020.

Baja SAE consists of competitions around the globe that challenge engineering students to design, build and race single-seat, all-terrain, sporting vehicles. For Marquette’s return to off-road racing, engineers relied on the dependable Eagle 3 car. Eagle 3 has been the team’s main vehicle since being built by Marquette engineers in 2017, preceded by Eagle 2 and Eagle 1. Recent upgrades to the car include a new transmission and motor, brake repairs and attention to electrical issues identified by the team.

In the slalom race, drivers had to carefully weave through cones toward a teammate stationed across the course with the important task of eating a pickled egg. After making quick work of the egg, Marquette’s driver hurried back through the course to finish in fifth place.

For the endurance race, drivers had four hours to complete as many 1.04-mile laps as possible. The team faced an unexpected repair delay, but Marquette came prepared with a full trailer of tools and the mindpower of 13 teammates to get the vehicle back in the race. After four hours and four drivers, Eagle Racing completed 32 laps and placed 22nd.

Teams also competed in a hill climb competition up a steep, snowy incline that left almost all competitors defeated.

Day-of race duties were shared among teammates, including driving, vehicle repairs, managing the trailer, photography, cheering, coaching and, of course, pickled egg eating. Overall, Eagle Racing is proud of their performance, the reliability of the vehicle and their work leading up to and on race day.

“I’m very happy with our performance over the weekend, and although we were running an older car than our competitors, we are still one of the fastest teams on track,” said Sebastian Partyka, a senior mechanical engineering student and Marquette SAE member. “While there still are areas of improvement that need to be addressed, especially before the International Races, I am confident in the team’s ability to come together in difficult situations.”

Back in Engineering Hall’s shop spaces, the Marquette chapter of Society of Automotive Engineers has switched their focus to building an entirely new car, Eagle 4. The team plans to introduce Eagle 4 to the world of off-road racing at the Society of Automotive Engineers International’s next race on May 4 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Learn more about the history of Marquette’s Society of Automotive Engineers online, and stay tuned for updates from the team and the Opus College of Engineering.