The Baja Team Races To Win

Know what it takes to build a fully functional vehicle from scratch within a year? Ask our Baja Buggy team. With just twelve months and a $20,000 budget, the team’s objective is to design a vehicle that could be accepted for manufacturing while trying to simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges. In addition, the students work as a team to design, build, test, promote, and compete the vehicle with a given set of rules. As the incoming president of the Baja Racing Team, Christian Derra describes, the best thing about Baja is that “The team gives students opportunities to apply the entire engineering process and fabricate what they have designed.” Each year the team races in 2 to 3 locations ranging from California, to Portland, the Tennessee and more!

Now, imagine trying to race that vehicle you built against 100 other cars in a range that may be muddy, desert like, or filled with hills! The Baja Racing team has competed in all types of terrain, including their most recent trip to a very desert like location, as Derra described it as a “sun sand range,” just this past month. The ten team members, SCE students; Christian Derra, Nic Basore, Christopher Shinn, Meagan Holloway, Brent Norris, Brandon Norris, Jeffrey Earl, Robbie Beers, Nicholas Doolittle, and Alex Eckhoff, just got back from Gorman, California where they placed 26th overall out of 100 teams. The overall scoring was dependent on 3 separate races, the Endurance Race (29th place), the Hill Climb (14th place), and the Acceleration Race (23rd place).

Just upon coming back, the team has already started plans for the upcoming year. The team is always recruiting new members of all types of majors, if you’re interested in joining, please contact

Q+A With Alum: James Lammers

Bachelors in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Class of 1987
CEO, President for Trinity Animation
Current City: Lee’s Summit, MO  Hometown: Kansas City, MO

Tell me about an average day at your job:
The animation studio is like many other consulting services businesses: there are busy and slow times, there are deadlines and there are a variety of client styles and needs. As CEO, when things are busy I make sure employees have what they need to do their job while focusing on marketing efforts and longer term planning. When things are slow I get very busy finding productive tasks for all the staff to work on, and try to close the deal on any pending projects. And of course every day includes technical and HR problem solving, accounting and other details of running a small business.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?
UMKC provided serious intellectual challenges and demanding courses that helped me learn to persevere and get better at general problem solving.

What is something that you wish was available to you as a student that current students at UMKC have access to?
The internet. A massive compendium of information, instantly searchable and viewable.

Did you take any computer science or programming classes in High School?
No, but I did build a Sinclair ZX-81 microcomputer in Junior High, with my father’s sponsorship and encouragement. On this, I learned Z80 assembly language and BASIC programming. During my junior year I attended the Rose Hulman Polytechnic Institute and learned the obscure language APL; as well as getting a good taste of what attending a private college in another state might be like.

What societies and groups are you a part of and how do you feel that they have helped you professionally?
I helped start a 3D user group for Kansas City in 1993 that has been a wonderful source of new friends and information over the years. I stepped back from it a few years ago but the KC Autodesk Users Group carries on in the same vein and I enjoy going to this group’s meetings.

What excites you about the future for your field?
It is an overwhelmingly exciting and expanding field, with application in almost every sector of the economy. Right now I see augmented reality as something that will eventually upend and radically change many areas of communication, learning and entertainment. We intend to be part of this.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?
Plan to keep learning, changing and adapting for your whole career.
Always live below your means and avoid debt.
Try to adopt a “consultant” mindset at your jobs and simply contribute generously and positively to whatever project they are working on.