About Elisa


Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: West Palm Beach, Florida
Campus Involvement: Women's Baja SAE Team
Why I chose Embry-Riddle: I chose Riddle because they offer the High-Performance Vehicles track through their Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree. I also enjoy the small class sizes and the on-campus environment.

A Look into the Baja SAE Competition

The Baja SAE competition was held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin this year. If you are unfamiliar with Baja SAE, allow me to give a brief synopsis on the organization. Baja SAE is a collegiate design series competition that is held by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) every year. The organization aims to expose students to different aspects of the engineering process along with learning how to work within a team environment. There are multiple events a year (three to be exact) and student teams from around the US and other countries are given the ability to compete in this event. Students are tasked with designing, manufacturing, and assembling a one-seater, off-road vehicle that can withstand the grueling courses set up by the judges of the competition (most of which are Baja SAE alumni). Each team has to complete and submit a business presentation, design presentation, and an extensive cost report. Students attending competition are also given the opportunity to network with sponsoring companies and have a chance to apply for internships or full-time positions.

Oshkosh Corporation military vehicles on display at competition

This year was the first time since 2019 that the team has gone to competition. At the beginning of the fall 2022 semester, it was announced that teams would have to design vehicles with an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive system. In previous years, Baja SAE had only required two driven wheels. Given the limited knowledge of an all-wheel drive system, the team decided it would be best to attend competition and gain an insight into the process other teams had taken to determine their designs.

Team leads and officers from the ERAU Baja SAE team

Competition is set to take place throughout four days, each day consisting of different dynamic events with the final day holding the four-hour endurance race. The first day opens with registration and the business presentation. Teams are given a prompt where they have to pitch their vehicle design to a team of judges and explain why their design makes the most sense from an economic and manufacturing standpoint. Teams also have to go through engine and frame checks on the first day. Baja SAE rules dictate that the engine is the only component of the vehicle that is not allowed to be modified, therefore teams must complete an engine check at the start of competition to ensure they are compliant with rules. The first day also included a car show sponsored by Oshkosh Corporation, where they showed off the military vehicles that the company has designed and manufactured.

Remote controlled military vehicle brought by Pratt & Miller
Oshkosh vehicles on display for the car show

Day two introduces the first dynamic event of the competition (dynamic braking) along with the design judging, cost evaluation, tech inspection, and 4WD check. Teams are evaluated on their design choices during the design judging portion of the event. Tech inspection focuses on evaluating the vehicle overall and ensuring that it meets rules. Day three introduces the rest of the dynamic events. These include the maneuverability, acceleration, sled pull, and suspension events. The last day focuses solely on the endurance event. This is where all 100 teams line up their vehicles in grid form and drive around the track for four hours. The track itself is composed of different aspects of the dynamic events that took place the previous days. The team that completes the most laps around the track is the winner of the event. There is a fun statistic that I love to share with new teams members, which is that during the first few laps of the endurance race, about half of the teams on track would have experienced some form of damage to their vehicle. The track this year was extremely muddy due to weather, so most vehicles at some point found themselves stuck in the mud.

Different competing teams out on the muddy course

Overall, it was a great learning experience for our team to be a part of. Not only did we gain a valuable insight into the innerworkings of competition, but we were able to bond with our peers and developed a desire to succeed at competition in the following years to come.


Hello! My name is Elisa Castillo and I am a recent graduate of the Mechanical Engineering program here at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. My degree focused on High Performance Vehicles, and I also minored in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. I finished my first year as a graduate student in the accelerated masters program this spring, and am looking forward to my final year as a student this upcoming academic year.

Throughout my five years at ERAU, I have had the pleasure of holding multiple leadership positions. I have worked with the Women’s Baja SAE Team for four years now! I started as the Chief Technical Officer and held that position for three years. This past year, I became the Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) for the Baja senior design class, where one of my primary roles was to advise and guide the students throughout the semester on various engineering principles. I also served as the Chassis Lead, where I redesigned the chassis of the vehicle our team builds every year for competition to fit the new all-wheel drive (AWD) design that was developed. I have also worked as a Physical Sciences Tutor at the Academic Advancement Center (AAC) for three years, a Thermodynamics Teaching Assistant, and recently, as the GTA for the Engineering Fundamentals Lab, where EGR101 and EGR120 students come to seek help on projects that they are currently working on in those classes.

During my time at ERAU, I have been fortunate enough to have held multiple internship opportunities with inudstry leading companies, something which I will discuss more in detail in later posts. The highlights of those internships include working as a Manufacturing Engineering Intern at the Ford Motor Company, where I helped design the assembly line for the Ford Raptor R engine. Last year, I worked with General Motors as a Lap Time Simulation Intern with the Global Product Development team, and this year I have decided to return to General Motors as a Hardware Engineering Intern.

The Women’s Baja SAE Team accepting their first DEI Award this past Spring Semester (I am all the way to the right)
Test driving a Ferrari 458 in Michigan (Summer 2022)
The last day of my internship at the Milford Proving Grounds (Summer 2022)

I was born and raised in Cuba until I was six years old. My parents and I migrated to the United States in 2006, and have resided in West Palm Beach, FL ever since. For as long as I could remember, I have had a passion not just for automobiles, but understanding the complex systems that make them work. My dad would take me to his job at a mechanic shop where I got my first exposure to working on vehicles, and I have loved it ever since. Having this passion greatly influenced my decision to choose engineering as a career path, though there was never any doubt that this is what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t until high school that I knew I wanted to more specifically focus on the motorsports specialization of automotive engineering. I have always been a fan of the fast-paced and intense world of racing, and the pioneering technology those vehicles use have had the potential to create world records and revolutionize all aspects of the automotive world. Those accomplishments inspire me to always put forth my best possible effort, in the hopes of one day being a part of the team that shatters the next record.