Building Cars and Planes for Fun: Meet the Society of Automotive Engineers

Meet the Society of Automotive Engineers

If you want to learn how to build a car, or even a plane, NJIT has just the club for you: the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

SAE offers students a chance to build a Baja car, a Formula car or an Aero, a radio-guided plane. And if that’s not fun enough, club members get to race the cars and plane in yearly competitions. 

Students don’t join SAE for credit. They join for love. SAE stresses interdisciplinary work and is open to all students. Club members work on their projects throughout the year, including summer, and races in May and June.  The 41 students in the club have various majors, but all share a love of hands-on projects. Their projects allow them to apply problem solving skills to real-world projects. The Newark College of Engineering supports the club and members use the college’s labs for design and analysis. 

Andre Morgan, the president of SAE, is a mechanical engineering technology major who, along with running the club, is part of the Formula team. For him, the ultimate thrill comes when the wheels hit the track. “When you are basically strapped to a 600cc motorcycle engine,” says Morgan, “you’re no longer in the virtual world of the computer. Everything is real in a race.”

And though students join SAE for love, their work often has a direct payoff -- in the form of jobs. Take, for example, Steve Faria, a former SAE member who was recently hired by Honda, and Deepak Patel, another SAE alumnus hired by NASA. Both were hired in part because of the work they did on the aero plane, which showed the employers their talent for hands-on work. Faria and Patel studied mechanical engineering at NJIT, earning bachelors’ in 2009 and masters’ in 2010.

Or consider Tom Kingston, (2000, mechanical engineering) who used the skills he honed in SAE to start Spidertrax, a company that customizes parts for four-by-four trucks. Kingston founded Spidertrax with fellow NJIT student Eddie Casanueva. The two started Spidertrax in the backroom of NJIT’s Center for Manufacturing Systems.    

Another former SAE member, Anthony La Rosa (1992 mechanical engineering) helped found Tri-Power Design, a mechanical engineering consulting company. The Director of Engineering at Tri Power, Edward Laganis (1999, mechanical engineering) is also a SAE alum.  Tri-Power now sponsors the SAE club and La Rosa has visited NJIT to talk to students about engineering and manufacturing.   

Morgan, the club president, is happy to have the support of successful SAE alums and anything that helps with jobs is great. But for him, SAR is an outlet for his passion. Ever since he was a boy, Morgan says, he wanted to design a car. In junior high, he discovered NASCAR and his infatuation with cars escalated. Back then, his only building outlet was go-karts, so he built one from scratch. That was fun, but as he got older, he needed a bigger challenge. He found it in SAE.   

“As a sophomore I discovered SAE,” Morgan says, “and the club became the perfect outlet for my passion. For me, there couldn't be any better experience and opportunity than building and racing a formula car.”

(By Robert Florida, Office of Strategic Communications)