Thanks to some last-minute hard work and timely cleaning, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Chem-E-Car team placed in the top five at the 2019 American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE) North Central Regional Conference Chem-E-Car Competition at the University of Toledo. Their outstanding performance qualified the team to compete at Nationals being held during the 2019 AIChE annual meeting from Nov. 10-15 in Orlando, Florida.
This year’s team of chemical engineering students includes captain Eduardo Salgado, vice-captain James Fell, Amanda Ly, William Rawson, and Fatima Saeed.
The annual event challenges students to create a car that can carry a weight up to 500 grams and travel a precise distance on a rectangular course within two minutes. The competition challenges students to control how far the car travels by calculating the exact amount of reactants needed for chemical reactions to power the car, as well as to determine the right moment to stop.
Faculty advisor Meenesh R. Singh, an assistant professor in the chemical engineering department, said UIC’s team did very well for the second year in a row. He noted last year’s team barely missed placing in the top five, and this year’s team worked hard to improve on that performance.
“While most of the other cars in the competition failed to carry the load, our car was able to carry the load and run consistently for over 15 meters in both trials,” Singh said. “We will be making a few changes in the design of the car and the battery to win in the national competition to be held at the AIChE meeting in Orlando later this year.”
Salgado said the team ran into a lot of issues when testing the car in the week before the regional earlier in April. Rawson added the team did a lot of experiments, right up until they left for Toledo on Friday.
“The last thing we thought of, but we didn’t get a chance to test, was we scraped the lead battery plates clean, and it worked really well after that,” Rawson said.
Fell said the team learned a lot about their car and the chemistry behind it in the week leading up to the competition and on competition day.
“We found out a lot more on the day of the competition about how the car works than we did for the entire semester,” James said with a laugh. “The lead plate issue had been giving us problems for months and we finally figured it out.”
The team is excited across the board for the chance to compete again later this year. They feel with a few tweaks to their design they will have a great chance at this next level. In addition to looking forward to another round of competition, Salgado said he is excited to learn more about the other team’s designs and batteries.
“I’m looking forward to being in the area with everyone who is similar to us,” Rawson said. “You don’t get a chance to do that a lot. I’ve never been to a competition where it’s a bunch of chemical engineers, usually it’s like sports competition. So, being on a basketball floor with a bunch of like-minded chemical engineers was really cool for me.”