For the second year in a row, the UTC student Chem-E Car team will compete on the national level. The team will travel to San Francisco, California for the competition sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).
Last year, the team secured a ninth-place finish and the award for “Best Inherent Design for Safety.” Brooke Washburn, a senior chemical engineering major and co-captain of this year’s team, said the team is ready for this year’s competition.
“We’re really excited to compete in nationals again. We always go in feeling like we’re the underdog. A lot of big schools will be there, so we feel we have something to prove,” she said.
The goal of the contest is to design a car powered and stopped solely by a chemical reaction. The winner of the competition is based not on the speed or how far the car can go but how well the car is controlled. Minutes before the competition gets underway, the team is given a distance the car must travel and a water weight the vehicle must haul. The car that arrives closest to its assigned distance wins.
According to Washburn, the team learned a lot from last year’s competition, and added improvements to this year’s car.
“We’ve made some electrical changes from last year’s model. It will make human errors less of a factor, which is important in a competition where every second counts,” she said.
Washburn, who has been a member of the team since she was a freshman, is excited to see the team grow and receive more recognition.
“The team has doubled in size since I joined. As we’re getting better, traveling, and winning awards, we’ve seen more interest from students. It’s not just chemical engineering majors anymore either. We have a variety of majors helping us out this year,” she said.
For Washburn, working on the chem-e car has given her a well-rounded educational experience.
“The engineering field is so hands-on. There’s only so much you can do in a lab,” Washburn said. “Being on the chem-e car team showed me what it means to be a working engineer. From working on a team to collaborating with administration to sticking to a budget, being a part of the chem-e car team provided me with invaluable experience to apply to my future career.”