A student team from the Chemical Engineering Department at UTC took second place in an alternative-fuels vehicle competition in Clearwater, Florida. UTC was one of the smallest schools in the competition at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Southeastern Conference hosted by the University of South Florida.
Twenty one engineering schools from the Southeastern region participated in the competition.
The UTC team placed higher than University of Alabama, Auburn University, University of Florida, University of South Florida, and University of Puerto Rico. UTC also edged out The University of Tennessee, Knoxville team, which came in third. Both UTC and UTK qualified for nationals at the AIChE Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City in November.
“Just seeing that our car performed the way we had predicted it to and beat all of those big-name schools makes all the hard work that we all put into it completely worth it,” said Braulio Ferrando, a member of the team.
The team also won a 2nd place award in the poster competition.
Each team designs and fabricates a car that can be powered and stopped by chemical reactions. Disassembled, the car must fit into a shoe box.
Amanda Wade, student captain of the team, said the biggest problem was the stopping reaction.
“The chemistry wasn’t that hard, but the biggest challenge was finding a way to make the car stop when we wanted it to stop,” Wade said.
UTC’s vehicle, the Chem-eleon, is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. It does not have conventional brakes; it is stopped by a reaction made by mixing two solutions. This reaction produces a color change that is detected by an on-board sensor.
“Our students designed a very unique derivative (mathematical) analysis for what is normally a common reduction reaction, where a potassium permanganate solution changes color from purple to green. This removed bias in the car stopping mechanism, making UTC the only team to stop within half a meter of the target for both individual runs,” explained Dr. Bryan J. Ennis, the ChemE Car faculty advisor. “It was very innovative monitoring and control technique that demonstrates an impressive level of maturity of the team. I was very honored as advisor to be there to witness their achievements.”
An hour before competition, the distance and the weight the car must carry is determined by flipping a coin. The teams then determine the detailed chemical processes required to move the car the exact distance carrying the assigned load. Each team has two runs and the team that comes closest to the goals wins.
Teamwork enabled success, according to Amanda Wade, student captain of the ChemE Car group.
“My job as a leader is to enable our team to do the best that we can and to push the team beyond where we thought we could go,” Wade said. “This would not be possible if our team did not have a positive attitude and a very determined work ethic.”
Wade said the group came together like a big family.
“We each spent 100 hours on this project, so we spent a lot of time together,” Wade explained. Whenever something was wrong, everyone supported each other.”
The team took responsibility for all aspects of construction including engineering, budgeting, planning and learning to work together toward a common goal both when things go great and during the times they had to back up and change directions.
The entire team would like to thank all sponsors for their support.
“Thank you to BASF, McKee Foods, Schneider Electric, Volkswagan, CECS, and the NSF. Our participation would not be possible without their support,” Wade said.
Chem-eleon has qualified for the nationals at the AIChE Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City in November. “Our team can’t wait!” Wade exclaimed.
Stay connected to this group by checking out their facebook page to continue to keep up with the team’s progress, and while you’re there, add a little encouragement and “like” their page!
Thanks to Amanda Wade for her assistance with this news release.