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Baja SAE Partnership Promotes STEM 

Education, Experiential Learning and Workforce 



By Steven Hyde

June 27, 2018



Oregon will have an estimated 40,000 new job openings per year in STEM-related fields by 2020, according to the CTE-STEM Employer Coalition. To help prepare Oregon’s workforce for these STEM jobs, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Oregon Organizing Committee works directly with engineering students, universities and local STEM industry companies to connect employers with highly-trained and talented future employees. Partnerships like this provide opportunities for students in science, technology, engineering and math that aren’t always accessible inside the classroom. These efforts are mutually beneficial, offering students the opportunity to learn cutting edge skills, while ensuring a talented, career-ready workforce for Oregon’s growing STEM industries.


I’ve seen the value of these partnerships first-hand through my work with the SAE Collegiate Design Series. The SAE Oregon Organizing Committee hosted its sixth competition on May 30 – June 2 at the Washougal Motocross Course, where over 1,300 students from across the world participated in an engineering and design competition with their Baja cars, which the student teams designed and built specifically for the SAE competition.


Over the years, ESCO has partnered with student teams from local universities to help make or cut custom parts or give advice for their vehicles, offering students real-world experience in how the design, engineering and manufacturing process works. ESCO is also a longtime supporter of the event, with dozens of company employees serving as volunteers to work with teams, and serve as judges or event organizers.


I participated in the Baja SAE competition as an engineering student at Oregon State University and have been involved with the Oregon competition’s organizing committee since 2006, serving as event chairman for the 2015 competition. Personally, I enjoy volunteering for Baja SAE, because I get to play a part, even a small one, in improving the caliber of a students’ educational experience beyond just textbooks and make them more industry-ready. In the Baja SAE competition, students must win against their competition, just as ESCO must outperform their competition. We have engineers who are driven to make ESCO the market leader, and Baja is a great way for future engineers to demonstrate that same capability.


460781_180191025436129_990827672_o (1).jpg 

 ​Eugene Havenga far right, back row, with his team competing in the 2012 competition. 

A great example of this is current ESCO employee Eugene Havenga who participated in the 2012 Baja competition. At the time, Eugene was a part of a team from South Africa who came to Portland to compete and eventually won the design portion of the competition. After a need for an engineer in South Africa arose, we contacted his advisor and connected Eugene with our hiring manager in Johannesburg. Thanks to our exposure through SAE, I was able to confidently recommend Eugene and his team to our hiring manager. ESCO’s work with Baja not only helped us find Eugene and identify him as the most qualified candidate, it also made ESCO more competitive to Eugene and helped us to bring him on board.

At ESCO, talented engineers like Eugene are critical for our continued success, and ESCO’s support of Baja helped connect the dots. When looking at current and future STEM jobs in Oregon, it is ever more important that we continue to support all partnerships between industry and STEM programming like Baja SAE. And at the heart of those industry partnerships is the opportunity to improve STEM education.