Georgia Institute of Technology took home the $2,000 first prize, funded by the H. Scott Fogler Endowment, for its car that was propelled down the track by a stepper motor fueled by a lead acid battery.
The competition – sponsored by Chevron – is held in conjunction with AIChE’s Annual Meeting, which was held at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center on October 28, 2018. The competition’s ultimate goal is to teach chemical engineering students to think creatively about alternative fuels, while also teaching important lessons in safe engineering.
“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.”
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.
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.
- AIChE President Christine Seymour
One hour before the 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.
Georgia Tech won the performance competition by piloting its car to within 1 cm of the target distance.
The second-place team was Rutgers University, which came within five centimeters of the target. Rutgers' car was powered by a stack of zinc-copper sulfate batteries, which were encased in custom, 3D-printed battery shells, and stopped by an iodine clock reaction.