For the first time, Georgia Tech took home the $2,000 first prize in the finals of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE) Chem-E-Car Competition. Tech’s car was propelled down the track by a stepper motor fueled by a lead acid battery and came within one centimeter of the target distance.
The competition – sponsored by Chevron and funded by the funded by the H. Scott Fogler Endowment – was held in conjunction with 2018 AIChE’s Annual Meeting (Oct. 28-Nov 2 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
The annual competition’s ultimate goal is to teach chemical engineering students to think creatively about alternative fuels, while also teaching important lessons in safe engineering. Watch a video about the competition here.
One hour before the annual competition, the students are told the amount of weight (water) their cars must carry and the distance they must travel. The students must then calculate the appropriate chemical reaction to do the job. They are given two attempts to propel the cars as close as possible to the finish line. This year, the cars had to carry 390 mL of water across the 25.3 meter track.
Tech’s team included students Noah Harris, Ryan Waldheim, Scott Fogler, Mason Pirkl, Reynold Kyaw, Wendy Yao, and Finn Ramos. Ben Galfond is the Chem-E-Car advisor.
Students design cars using a variety of materials and fueling methods, showcasing each team’s creativity and innovation. The build teams employ an array of techniques and technologies, including 3D printing for car parts, and previous fueling methods have used unique combinations such as beef liver and hydrogen peroxide to produce a chemical reaction.
Teams qualified for the annual final competition by placing at regional competitions throughout the year. This year, international teams represented universities in Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brazil.
“The students have done an amazing job with the cars this year,” Christine Seymour, President of AIChE, said at the competition. “Through this competition, the students learn about teamwork, safety, and problem solving… they also devise creative solutions for their car design, as the cars are all very different.”