HKUST on Preparing for the Chem-E-Car Competition [Interview]

Every year, Chem-E-Car teams from around the world travel to AIChE's Annual Student Conference to compete in the Chem-E-Car Competition®. At the 2017 ASC, a team from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) traveled to compete in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. HKUST team members shared their experiences in an interview with the Executive Student Committee. Select answers are featured below.

How did you come up with the name for your 2017 Chem-E-Car?

The name we went for this year was “Indigo.” We came up with this name when we were thinking of how to innovate something new to gain a competitive edge in the competition. So our team leader jokingly said that we need to “innovate on the go” which sounded like “innovation indigo,” so we just decided to go with Indigo since it’s simple and goes with our motto.

How was your Chem-E-Car funded?

Our research, car, and trip were all funded by the HKUST Chemical and Biological Engineering department. We would like to express our gratitude towards the department for their immense support and belief in us to enable us to have such a great experience participating in the competition.

What did you learn from your experience competing at the Annual Student Conference?

We think the most important thing we learned was to trust each other. We each had a specific role to play during the competition, and we each had our own individual expertise or knowledge. During our regional competition in Hong Kong last August, we still seemed to have a lot of doubts going into the competition which led to our team functioning inefficiently. But we gradually realized that we had to work together in order to finish everything on time, so we had to focus on doing our own parts well and trusting each other.

What would you tell an AIChE Chapter that is interested in competing in Chem-E-Car?

Go for it. This competition is an intriguing application of various disciplines including chemistry, electronics, mechanics, programming, etc. It is such a fun and exciting experience to be able to compete with chemical engineers from other universities and to see their passion for the competition as well.

What advice do you have for other Chem-E-Car teams?

Although a lot of the cars that competed in the competition used sophisticated car designs, mechanisms, and reactions, I think that the best way for a new team to get started is to go back to the basics and then gradually improve specific parts of the car. We started with a toy car kit from Taobao to have a functional car to test and learn the basics, then we gradually built our car from scratch through laser cutting, 3D printing, etc.

You can read more about the 2017 ASC Chem-E-Car Competition® in Sarah Ewing's ChEnected recap.