By Mercedes Lilienthal – SBN Member

Photos provided by SAE Baja

As a SEMA member, the owner of Crankshaft Consulting, an automotive journalist and a PR/marketing professional, I recently volunteered as a Business Presentation judge for the 2021 SAE Baja intercollegiate competition. At the event, engineers designed and constructed a prototype single-seat, all-terrain race vehicle. Teams from around the globe presented comprehensive business, logistical, production, and marketing plans to a panel of judges.

This fast-paced competition revealed dedication, attention to detail, and diverse creativity. However, it exposed areas of improvement. Working with a diverse group of industry professionals who donated their time to judge teams, I found it fulfilling to witness the next generation of talent in the automotive industry. I was honored to sit alongside talented and accomplished industry peers as we critiqued each team.

SBN member Cora Jokinen, President of Torq-Masters Industries, Inc. shared her experience being a first-time judge. “When the opportunity to remotely judge came up, I was excited to volunteer and I'm very glad I did.”

To Jokinen, it was a roller coaster as judges discovered each team’s strengths and weaknesses. “It's important to have a well-rounded business plan as well as an exceptional vehicle,” Jokinen noted as a business owner giving feedback on marketing strategy, pricing structures, manufacturing and race series planning.

Other SBN members, including Kelleigh Ash, Director of Sales, Marketing and Brand Management of KW Automotive North America, Inc., were excited to witness the creativity and passion of young minds. “It is very fulfilling to be able to give back and see the students’ perspectives on how to create a Baja series. Their ideas and fresh perspectives were invigorating,” Ash recalled.

Executive Director at Lions Automobilia Foundation and SBN Chair Lana Chrisman feels blessed to enjoy a career in the automotive industry and enjoys volunteering for programs like SAE Baja. To her, “It’s an exciting way to support and stay plugged into the next generation and future on our industry.”  

SAE Baja


SAE Baja


SAE Baja