Vote for Your Favorite Student Videos!

Of all of the engineering disciplines, it is toughest to describe what exactly a chemical engineer does. “Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that the other engineering disciplines build more tangible things,” says Stas’ Gawel, subcommittee chair of AIChE’s Global Undergraduate Student Video Competition. “Civil engineers build bridges, mechanical engineers build engines, and electrical engineers build circuits.” Chemical engineers, on the other hand, are more versatile and work in a wider variety of industries and positions than many other types of engineers.

Winning videos will inspire high school students

Two years ago, the Young Professionals Committee (YPC) conceived of the Global Undergraduate Student Video Competition to give high school students a better idea of what chemical engineers do, and to encourage students to pursue this major in college. In the 2015 inaugural competition, AIChE student chapter teams created educational 2–5-minute videos that explain how an oil refinery works.

Teams could submit videos to address the subtopics of separation, conversion, and purification — key processes that occur within an oil refinery. Each student chapter team was allowed to create as many videos as it wished. “We would rather be inclusive than exclusive, so there is no limit on the number of videos per team, and no limit on the number of members per team,” says Thang Ho, one of the inventors of the global student competition and a research scientist at Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Boston, MA. However, each team is eligible to win a maximum of two awards. 

Undergraduate students were tasked with incorporating technical concepts — such as energy balances, mass balances, and reactions — into their videos. However, one of the key stipulations of the competition was that the average high school student be able to understand and be inspired by the videos. “The vision is to use these videos for K-12 outreach to explain what chemical engineers can do,” says Ho.

The videos will be evaluated on their original content and creativity, and judged by a panel of AIChE members who work in the oil and gas industry. Judges will work closely with AIChE’s Education Div. to ensure the videos are suitable for K-12 outreach. The judges will score each entry on technical merit, creativity, and presentation quality. Bonus points will be added for videos that address safety concerns. The five that score highest will receive judges’ choice awards.

General public can also vote

In addition to the judges, the general public will have an opportunity to view and vote for the videos. “Anyone with a YouTube account can vote,” says Ho. All competition videos will be listed on the YPC YouTube page, and between August 15 and September 30, public voting will be allowed. To vote for your favorite video (or videos), simply “like” the video on YouTube by giving it a thumbs-up. Four additional awards will be given to the first place video overall based on YouTube voting, and the first place video on each subtopic, when all the competition winners are announced at the 2015 Annual Student Conference in Salt Lake City, UT.

The Student Video Competition provides an opportunity for students to get involved in AIChE at the global level and participate in a competition without having to travel to a conference. The high cost of travel can be prohibitive to teams within the U.S., and especially prohibitive to international teams. “While the Chem-E-Car Competition is exciting and challenging, there is one large downside: in order to compete, each team must travel to the regional conference, and if they do well, they must travel again to the annual competition,” says Gawel. The Chem-E-Car competition is held in conjunction with AIChE’s Annual Meeting, which takes place in a different city in the U.S. every year. The new Student Video Competition ensures that students can focus on creating their video, rather than worrying about raising funds for travel. “We came up with this competition so that international students can feel like they are a bigger part of AIChE,” says Ho.

Although this is the inaugural year of the competition, the YPC is already looking forward to growing the competition in the coming years. They hope to choose topics in the future that demonstrate to high school students the wide variety of careers that entry-level chemical engineers can pursue. They haven’t set any strict benchmarks, but they hope to garner some quality videos from national and international teams, and create enough interest to encourage more submissions next year.

If you would like to learn more about the competition, click here. And don’t forget to vote for your favorite videos when the public voting opens on August 15th!

This piece was originally published in the August 2015 issue of CEP Magazine. Members can access the full issue as well as years of archived issues here.