Engineering students’ ‘Chem-E-Car’ places nationally

In Engineering Education, News

The University of Florida AIChE Chem-e-Car Team placed 2nd out of 32 universities in the Distance Competition and won the award for the Most Consistent Performance (best average distance between the two runs).

As Cougar rolled to the finish, its creators held their breath.

The car, fueled entirely by chemical reactions, had passed the rigorous safety test.

It was consistent in practice. All it had to do now was stop near a line.

It stopped 29 inches from the line, which was good enough to propel the team from UF’s chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers temporarily into first place.

Team members jumped and chanted, “It’s great to be a Florida Gator!” with the University of South Florida team.

The UF team took second place in the national Chemical Engineering Car competition, nicknamed the Chem-E-Car and hosted by the AIChE, and earned the title of Most Consistent Performance on Nov. 7 in Salt Lake City.

Cornell University competed after the UF team and ended up winning first place.

The car runs only off of hydrogen, which powers a fuel cell to run the motor.

The competition required a car to stop at a line 95 feet away while carrying 250 grams of water.

Cary Warsetsky, president of the UF chapter of AIChE, said the club has progressed immensely in the four years he’s been involved. He said his team barely had a moving car his freshman year and that to place second in nationals is an amazing improvement.

Next year, they plan to build two cars: a reliable car like Cougar and an innovative car that no one’s ever seen before.

They want to win the creativity contest, too.

In order to prepare for the competition, club members started planning last September and met twice a day for the two months leading up to the competition.

“It’s a year-round project,” said Louis Vazquez, chairman of the Chem-E-Car project.

As far as hands-on learning goes, he said this project is king.

Older members teach new students how to build the car and how to avoid the problems they had in other competitions.

“You pick up things that you didn’t learn from a textbook,” he said.

Warsetsky said the win was a boost for UF’s image, but it was also a personal victory for him and his team.

“It was definitely a good moment for us,” he said.