Kyle Craig’s enthusiasm is palpable. He is a fresh face in the newly energized aerospace industry, creating parts for satellite launches and other missions. It is a job that demands attention to detail, collaboration, technical expertise and initiative — attributes forged over three years in a machine shop at Cal Poly Pomona that is an incubator for engineering success.
The shop is home for the Baja and Formula SAE teams, which design vehicles that compete in events across the country and in Europe.
Baja SAE empowers team members to push the limits, and Craig did just that when he designed and built a lightweight, efficient and complex forward-neutral-reverse gear box and helped shepherd an electronic continuously variable transmission, or CVT, that drew the attention of judges and competitors alike. (A CVT allows drivers to seamlessly change gears by simply pushing down on the pedal.)
Spend five minutes with Craig and you will see that he knows his stuff, but he will acknowledge that an experience punctuated with failure was instrumental in opening the door to professional success.
The final Baja SAE competition of the year started June 7 in Peoria, less than 24 hours after Craig had wrapped up finals. The flight to Illinois arrived just in time for him to pick up a rental car. No time for sleep. No time to prepare the Baja car for competition.
The team shined during early judging, but in the “dynamic” events, with a driver behind the wheel, the car broke down — again and again and again and again.
The team managed to nurse the vehicle onto the track four times before the engine succumbed. Despite the setbacks, the team finished third overall in the design competition.
“There’s no manual in Baja that says ‘Here’s how you solve it.’ You have to develop your problem and solve it. The manual is the shop. … Baja lets you prove that you have what it takes to get the job done.”
The aerospace professional who recruited Craig agrees. He’s a Baja alumnus.