Formula SAE is a student design competition that started all the way back in 1978. SAE International, formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers, puts on the competition. It was in 1978 that Mark Marshek contacted the SAE Educational Relations Department while at the University of Houston in Texas. He wanted to add a new event, a variant of the Mini Baja. The name of this event was the Mini Indy, which eventually became the Formula SAE competition it is today.

The basic concept behind the competition is that a fictional company contracts a student design team to create a miniature Formula-style racecar. The students are to create a prototype of this car marketed toward casual autocross racers. The competition judges the cars in a number of different areas, including:

- Design (150 possible points)
- Cost (100 possible points)
- Presentation (75 possible points)
- Acceleration (75 possible points)
- Skidpad (50 possible points)
- Autocross (150 possible points)
- Fuel economy (100 possible points)
- Endurance (300 possible points)