Baja SAE is an intercollegiate design competition run by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Teams of students from universities all over the world design and build small off-road cars. The cars all have engines of the same specifications. As of 2009 the engine has been an unmodified Briggs & Stratton Intek 20 single-cylinder with a displacement of 300cc and power output of approximately 10 bhp (7.5 kW).

The goal in Baja SAE racing is to design, build and race off-road vehicles that can withstand the harshest elements of rough terrain. The vehicles used in Baja SAE racing are often similar in appearance to dune buggies. There are multiple dynamic events, usually four per event, as well as a single four-hour endurance race. The dynamic events include hill climbs, chain pulls, maneuverability events, rock crawls, and suspension & traction events.

Static events, such as written reports, presentations and design evaluations are provided by participating teams. This is when the teams are judged on ergonomics, functionality, and producibility of their cars; ensuring that the final placement of the team does not rest solely on the vehicle's performance but rather on a combination of static and dynamic events. Required reports detail the engineering and design process that was used in developing each system of the team’s vehicle, supported with sound engineering principles.

Also, a cost report that provides all the background information necessary to verify the vehicle’s actual cost is used to rate the most economically feasible for production. These reports are submitted weeks in advance of each event, where the presentations and design evaluations are given on site in the presence of SAE design judges.