A team of students in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering are headed to the Chem-E-Car national championship this weekend in Pittsburgh.
Organized by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the competition requires students to design and build a small vehicle powered only by a chemical source.
The ASU team has produced a vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell, with an electronic system to control speed, while using a chemical-reaction process to stop the car.
The team took a first-place award with its car at a Chem-E-Car regional event last spring in Reno, Nev.
The victory was an “upset,” says ASU Chem-E-Car team leader Devon Bridgeman, because the vehicle was unable to leave the starting line in the competition’s first run. Its second run, however, was exceptionally successful and boosted the team into the top spot.
At the national competition, students are given a certain distance that the car must travel while carrying a specified amount of weight – information that is withheld until the day of the event.
“It’s the on-the-spot calculations and calibrations necessary to account for distance and weight that make it a big challenge,” says Bridgeman.
Teammate Mathew Mellott says what makes the experience more valuable is getting to work with students in different areas of engineering.
Besides chemical engineering students developing the reaction and fuel-source process, mechanical engineering students designed the vehicle’s chassis and basic structural features. Mellott, a computer systems engineering major, helped with the calculations necessary to harness the car’s power for effective movement.
Other team members are chemical engineering students Andrew Chesley, Jacob Sciacca, Mike Morales, Nick Dunteman, Tyler Sherman and Chelsea Francis, who managed the team’s work throughout most of the project which has taken nearly a year.
Mechanical engineering students Dinesh Kale, Anna Debrilovic and Tianyu Dua have also contributed to the project.
The team’s faculty advisor is César Torres, an assistant professor of chemical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
This year’s national event, sponsored by the Chevron oil corporation, will include more than 30 teams from across the country. Winners receive a cash prize.
Bridgeman and Mellott say the competition is less about prize money and more about “gaining experience and adding strength to a résumé.” And, Bridgeman adds, “having a lot of fun.”