AIChE Members Attend National Conference and Place 14th in Chem-E-Car Competition

Twenty-one chemical engineering students recently attended the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) National Conference in Orlando, Florida, along with a number of their professors. Fully funded by the chemical engineering department, with special support from Professor Willey, these students had the opportunity to participate in professional workshops; listen to industry leaders; and network with potential employers, graduate schools, and their peers. Northeastern AIChE student chapter president Cameron Young thanked the department for this generous opportunity. “We are incredibly grateful to the chemical engineering department for sending so many students to the AIChE National Conference. This was an excellent opportunity for personal and professional development. I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with other student leaders from around the country, sharing the success of NU AIChE, and learning from my peers about how to make our chapter the best it can be.”

The weekend festivities culminated with the annual Chem-E-Car Competition, which the Northeastern team qualified for after placing second in the regional conference during the spring. The competition entails building a car powered by two different chemical reactions, one for power and one for timing, which the team has developed over the past two years. To add to the challenge of this difficult task, the day of competition the team learns the weight of water the car needs to carry and exact distance it needs to travel, and they have just one hour to adjust their reactions to meet these criteria. Northeastern placed 14th out of 42 teams at the international competition, beating out extremely competitive teams with corporate sponsorships, more time, and resources. The Northeastern team was complimented on their unique timing reaction that works by measuring the total amount of current that has passed through a galvanic cell. Further, their unusual use of methanol fuel cells to power the vehicle gained the attention of judges. Both of these reactions were based on team members’ work at their co-ops. The team also had a last-minute safety issue and was able to fashion a cage around the gears at the bottom of the car with limited materials and time, while still presenting their poster to judges. This amazing group of friends and team allows people to get hands-on experience beginning their freshman year, and many members have gotten co-op offers because of their work on these reactions.

Team captain Hannah Boyce commented on the success of her group. “I am so proud of this team for everything we have accomplished in the past year and a half when our car initially did not even move at the regional competition. We also were competing against teams that had more resources, time, and experience at nationals and we still placed in the top third. Everyone who came to competition was an integral part of the team and this experience has inspired all of us to keep working hard and developing creative, new reactions that no one has seen at a national level.”

The Northeastern student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers caters to forming relationships between students, professors, and industry partners through networking, academic, and social events intended to enhance the undergraduate chemical engineering experience. More information about this club can be found on their website.

Related Faculty: Courtney Pfluger, Ronald J. Willey

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering