November 21, 2008

Bucknell students prepare their entry for competition in Philadelphia.

LEWISBURG, Pa. – An eight-member inter-disciplinary team of Bucknell University chemical and mechanical engineering and chemistry majors captured sixth place in a national alternative fuel- powered car competition.

The race, held Nov. 16 in Philadelphia at the annual meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, saw a 33-car field from around the country and Puerto Rico racing shoebox-size cars that tested knowledge of chemical engineering principles.

“These (entrants) were the best of the best,” said Tim Raymond, team advisor and assistant professor of chemical engineering. To advance to the national competition, entrants must place high in regional competitions.

Pretty happy
“They’re pretty happy” with the sixth-place finish, Raymond said.

The goal of this year’s race was to power a vehicle carrying 250 milliliters of water over a 60-foot course and stop it as close as possible to the finish line. Each team was given two chances to run their cars.

Danielle Woodhead '09 spoke at the gala.

Using a stack of four proton-exchange membrane fuel cells to power an electric motor, the Bucknell entry finished a mere 24 inches from the finish line. The fuel cells produce electricity by an electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. The vehicle stops once the reactants are depleted.

Intricate calculations
To power and stop such a vehicle, students must make the most intricate measurements and calculations.

Bucknell’s team members were Brian Smith, Nick Hanes, Chris Shake, Eric Winter, Drew Hackman, Eric Dybeck, Andrew Lowrie and Brian Priolo.

One of the unique features of the Bucknell entry is that it did not use any dangerous chemicals. That reduced environmental and safety hazards and eliminated the need to transport and dispose of chemicals.

Bucknell's alternative fuel-powered vehicle.

Cornell first
Finishing ahead of Bucknell were Cornell University, which took the first-place prize of $2,000, Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University, University of Akron and Cooper Union.

The Chem-E Car competition, first raced in 1999, is seen as a fun and practical way for students to apply their knowledge of chemical engineering principles while helping to build interest and expertise in alternative fuels. All design and construction aspects are student-directed.

“The competition has grown over the last 10 years because of the heightened awareness of the need for alternative fuels,” said John Sofranko, executive director of the institute. “With each year’s competition, there is more creativity from our student members that could potentially impact our global energy supply and demand.”

Danielle Woodhead
Separately, institute student chapter president and Bucknell student Danielle Woodhead '09 was chosen to represent all chemical engineering undergraduate students at the Centennial Fundraising Gala, a black-tie event honoring the chief executive officers of ExxonMobil, Merck, Dupont and Dow Chemical.

Held at the Park Hyatt Philadelphia, Raymond said Woodhead gave a “phenomenal four-minute address” and that he was especially pleased to “see Bucknell so well presented before such an exclusive industry audience.”

The institute is a professional society of more than 40,000 chemical engineers in 92 countries.

Contact: Division of Communications

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