Aztec student club doesn’t cut corners

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Aztec student club doesn’t cut corners

Courtesy of SDSU Baja SAE

Courtesy of SDSU Baja SAE

Courtesy of SDSU Baja SAE

by Nicole Sazegar, Contributor

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Mechanical engineering senior Mario Gutierrez was born into the life of racing cars. This passion ultimately led him to become the chief engineer and founder of San Diego State’s chapter of Baja Society of Automotive Engineers.

Gutierrez hopes to help the SDSU chapter of Baja SAE, also known as Aztecs Baja, progress to its fullest potential by turning it into a competitive team that wins events.

“I like being different and unique with the engineering part of stuff, and being able to differentiate yourself and what you create from what’s already out on the market,” Gutierrez said.

SDSU Baja SAE started in 2011 as a group of no more than 10 dedicated members.

This year, Gutierrez and aerospace engineering senior and club president Ana Morino expanded it to approximately 40 student members, with majors ranging from business to journalism.

When she initially joined the group, Marino said she wasn’t sure if she would feel accepted.

“My fear was that they were going to think, ‘Oh, she’s a girl, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about,’” Marino said. “That was not the case. They had my back and they supported me. If there was a time that I had to ask for help, they were there to back me up.”

Baja SAE gives students an opportunity to expand their engineering capabilities beyond the classroom. Gutierrez hopes the club will help students overcome their fear of messing up so they can gain experience that will eventually help them in their future endeavors.

“We’ve always had the challenge of meeting deadlines just because of the lack of resources we have in the engineering machine shop,” he said. “To overcome those challenges, (we use our) passion and determination to finish something. Not to just cut corners and finish something, but to get it done right the first time so you don’t have to go and do it again.”

Building cars from scratch comes with the risk of faulty parts. In the last 15 minutes of a four-hour endurance race at a competition in Portland, Oregon, Gutierrez’s steering arm broke.

Remarkably, he still managed to come in sixth place out of over 100 universities. Aztecs Baja also placed 12th overall at a competition in Auburn, Alabama. These competitions marked the best performances from Baja SAE yet.

“After everything we’ve been through, we even got a little bit emotional,” Gutierrez said about the Portland competition. “We’re going to do better in 2016.”

The club has given Gutierrez not only real world experience with building cars, but also leadership and business experience.

“I’ll be able to apply what I’ve learned from the engineering aspect, the racing aspect and the leadership aspect to engineering and possibly product management like an engineering manager,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got a good perspective on how things need to be made and the parameters that (they need) to be made in.”

Gutierrez’s experience as an engineering student and founder of Aztecs Baja at SDSU will leave a legacy that will remain on campus years after he’s graduated.

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