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As members of the Society of Automotive Engineers at the Higher Education Center at McAllen, students will gain practical knowledge of multidisciplinary engineering by building, designing, racing and testing automotive and commercial vehicles. | Image: Justin Baetge/ Texas A&M Engineering Communications

Start your engines! 

Students recently founded a chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) at the Higher Education Center at McAllen (HECM) and are looking to recruit new members.

Texas A&M University opened the HECM to provide top-tier higher education opportunities to students in the Rio Grande Valley. Students at the HECM are students of Texas A&M and can complete their degree in McAllen. There are two engineering degrees that are offered fully in McAllen, designed to support the development of engineers for the Rio Grande Valley industry.

SAE is for students interested in building, designing, racing and testing automotive and commercial vehicles, while simultaneously making professional connections with engineers worldwide. 

“I realized the need for student organizations at HECM to help polish their engineering skills,” said Dr. Muzammil Arshad, the founding faculty advisor of the SAE HECM chapter. “This is accomplished by having professional student organizations such as the SAE. As a department of multidisciplinary engineering, I believe that SAE is a great fit for us.”

Members of SAE develop their knowledge of mobility solutions through hands-on competitions that range from building cars, planes, automobiles and even snowmobiles. SAE International hosts various competitions and races to test the students’ creations. 

These events range from electric vehicles to aerospace designs. For example, students can re-engineer an existing snowmobile in the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge and compete in events such as emissions, noise, fuel economy/endurance. In the AutoDrive Challenge, students make autonomous vehicles and race through urban terrains. These events are only a glimpse into the opportunities available to SAE members. 

Not only do these events require a diverse array of expertise, but they allow members to showcase their skills as interdisciplinary students. 

“The competitions work to refine their engineering skills and bring them into practice,” Arshad said. “If they win a competition, it’s a huge national success. Even if they don't win, it gives them the confidence that they can physically apply what they’ve learned at a national level.”

One of the students already involved in SAE is President Kassie Juarez. After hearing about the opportunity from Arshad, she immediately took on the role of a leader. 

“I want students to join because it’s focused on building the necessary skillset an engineering student needs to survive in the real world,” said Juarez. “I feel like it will give (students) a different perspective of how their job is going to be if they go into the automotive or engineering field.” 

Due to COVID-19, some of the larger SAE events are on hold. However, Juarez has several ideas to help members in the meantime, such as seminars held by local engineers, workshops on resume building and creating LinkedIn accounts. The HECM wants to use SAE as a catalyst to recruit students to the organization and highlight their strides as a university. 

“I think doing these types of workshops will help the students get out of their comfort zone and start meeting other people,” Juarez said. “We are trying to push ourselves and create new opportunities for students to come to the higher education center.”

SAE at McAllen is accepting new members until mid-November. If interested, contact Arshad.