New Baja space is on full display as the Healys and members of the team surround the all-terrain vehicle.

Baja team brings real-world application to a student-level learning

Published 05.05.2023

Baja SAE club President Marshall Fowler

by Baja SAE club President Marshall Fowler

Engineering design technology student


My name is Marshall Fowler, and I am the current president of the Baja SAE Team here on campus. As I finish up my third year in the Engineering Design Technology program, I look back at the things I have accomplished over the past three years. Whether it be redesigning the Baja team’s secondary CVT (continuously variable transmission), or making parts of a four-wheel drive system from scratch, there was no shortage of challenges that had to be overcome.

When I was first looking at colleges to attend after high school, I didn’t really have much of an idea about what I wanted to do. All I knew, was that I wanted to work with my hands. I spent most of my childhood out in my dad’s shop tinkering with broken machines, microwaves, blenders, and other appliances. I found it fascinating that the different mechanisms inside all worked harmoniously together. After I toured Penn College, I saw that they integrated hands-on labs as the primary method of teaching and was immediately hooked. After I was done with the tour, my mom and I walked out from the CAL lab into the parking lot. I saw from across the way what looked to be a custom off-road vehicle. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for my entire three-hour ride back to Bucks County. When I got home, I looked up every video, every article I could find on the Baja team. From that visit, I knew what I wanted to do in college. When I got to school, I emailed the club and set up an interview with John Upcraft on the second day of classes. After that, the rest is history.

The Baja team brings real-world application to a student-level learning event. Every aspect of our car is designed, manufactured, and tested by students of the team. Every nut, every bolt, every bearing has to be thought of when designing these vehicles. We run into problems all the time where a design doesn’t work out fully, and we have to figure out how to solve the issues, or else we don’t get to race.

This team takes the theoretical information that we are learning in our classes and puts it into a real-world scenario.

As a designer and leader in the club, I have had the great fortune of following a project from conceptualization to a finished machined part that goes onto the car. There is no better feeling than seeing the part that you designed or machined in action, zipping around in the four-hour endurance race. The Baja team has not only taught me how to design my parts for manufacturability, but it has also taught me project-management skills. Our team has a deadline to meet; if our car is not ready race by the end of the year, we don’t get to go to competition. There are over 1,000-plus parts on the car that need to be itemized, ordered, or manufactured. The skills that this team has taught me are going to expedite my career in the racing industry. I can use the skills I learned here and apply them to building my own business and future race team.

This gracious donation from Ken and Kristie Healy marks a turning point for our team. Over the past 18 years, we have been functioning out of a small closet on the other side of the tool crib. While that room served its purpose, the team continues to grow, and we quickly outgrew it. This new lab is going to allow our team the opportunity to take our skills to a new level. The larger space, abundant cabinetry, and new computers will allow us to better organize our equipment, so that we can spend more time designing and manufacturing parts. This investment in our club is going to usher in a new generation for the Penn College Baja SAE Team.

To Ken and Kristie Healy, from everyone on the Baja team, and everyone who will join the Baja team in the future, thank you. Thank you for enabling us to live out our college dreams of building a racecar, and to pursue careers we never imagined possible.