Chemical Engineering Students Compete in National AIChE ChemE Car Competition

chemical engineering students in lab posing for photo

At the national American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) virtual conference in November, the Northeastern student chapter took part in the ChemE Car competition.

For the competition, student teams develop cars that run on a chemical reaction, must carry a certain weight, and travel a specific distance.  Teams are not told until just before the competition what the weight and distance will be, and so spend the entire year leading up to the event designing their car, running vigorous tests to meet any possible competition requirements, and ensuring proper safety and size limitations are achieved.  To ensure the car only travels a certain distance, the teams design a stopping reaction or mechanism to keep the car from passing the endline.

To be eligible for the national competition, Northeastern had to first qualify in the regional Northeast student conference, which is always a challenge given the high quality of competition from other colleges in the region.  Both the regional and national conferences were held virtually, which further increased the difficulty of the event.  Northeastern finished in the top 3 at the regional conference to qualify and placed 17 out of 24 at the national competition.

The Northeastern car ran on aluminum-air batteries stacked in custom 3-D printed pieces, in which the batteries made from aluminum foil, a paper towel soaked in a NaOH electrolyte solution, activated carbon as a conductive additive, and copper mesh as a current collector.  A vitamin C iodine clock using a photodiode triggered the stopping of the car.

The Northeastern student team was led by co-captains Sydney Morris, E’21, and Dylan Miller, E’23, with significant contributions from fellow undergraduate ChE students Kaitlyn Hatzmann, E’23, Sarah Benson, E’24, Brian Beggan, E’21, Patrick Sliter, E’23, Sam Vayner, E’24, and Hannah Boyce, E’22.  The graduate student supervisor was Ben Howell, PhD’22.

Faculty advisor to the AIChE student chapter, ChE Associate Teaching Professor Courtney Pfluger, said that she was, “very proud of the ChemE Car team this year.  They made real progress on the car since regionals, which was just a few weeks before the national competition.”

Related Faculty: Courtney Pfluger

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering