SALT LAKE CITY -- A multidisciplinary team of Bucknell students took fifth-place honors in the national Chem-E Car Competition Sunday, Nov. 4.
With student team entries from 29 colleges and universities from around the United States, the Salt Palace Convention Center competition featured small car-like vehicles powered by chemical reactions of alternative fuels created by the students.
"I'm extremely proud of what they have accomplished," said Timothy Raymond, assistant professor of chemical engineering and advisor to the five-member team. "Their interdisciplinary team consisted of chemical engineers and electrical and mechanical engineering students." (continue reading story below)
First in regionals
Each of the teams had earned a spot in the national competition based on a series of eight regional competitions. Bucknell finished first in the Mid-Atlantic Regional competition that was held on the Bucknell campus in April.
The shoebox-size cars are powered by alternative fuels and must carry a small payload a specified distance. The payload and distance are not revealed to the competitors until one hour before the contest begins, requiring teams to make last-minute fuel calculations and adjustments.
On the first run, Team Bucknell's entry, powered by a zinc battery and magnesium fuse, reached within 39 inches of the finish line on the 67-foot course, according to Raymond.
"They modified their reaction to reach 27 inches from the finish line on the second run to come in fifth place," the advisor said. "The winning car was only four inches from the line."
Cooper Union took first place in the competition, followed by Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Oklahoma, and Louisiana State University.
Team Bucknell included non-chemical engineering majors, according to Jeffrey Csernica, professor of chemical engineering and chair of the chemical engineering department at Bucknell.
'Real world' engineering
"The use of multi-disciplinary teams is encouraged," he said. "As a preview of the 'real world' of engineering, it is great for the students to experience the synergy and advantages as well as the bumps that come from putting people with different mindsets and backgrounds together on a project."
In Salt Lake City were junior Brian Smith of Freeburg, Pa.; junior Nicholas Hanes of Wilmington, Del.; and senior Peter Baughman of New Cumberland, Pa. Two additional team members remained in Pennsylvania.
The Chem-E Car Competition was a featured event of the convention of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. The convention is expected to draw as many as 4,000 chemical engineering students and government and corporate engineers by the time it ends this week.
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Posted Nov. 5, 2007