April 20, 2010

Bucknell engineers celebrate second-place finish at the mid-Atlantic ChemE Car Competition.

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By Sam Alcorn

LEWISBURG, Pa. — A team of Bucknell University engineers took second place in the Mid-Atlantic ChemE Car Competition, earning the opportunity to compete in the national contest being staged in Salt Lake City in November.

The students — Andrew Lowery, Class of '11, team captain and a mechanical engineering major, and chemical engineers Eric Dybeck '11, Drew Bundschuh '11, Amanda Britton '12 and Mara Liebgott '11 — competed this past weekend at Johns Hopkins University, where more than 250 participants from 22 eastern region colleges and universities attempted to prove they were the best. || See competition video

"This year's conference was the largest ever for the Mid-Atlantic region," said Tim Raymond, associate professor of chemical engineering and advisor to the Bucknell team. "We're returning to Salt Lake City, where in 2007 Bucknell placed fifth at nationals — this year we hope to do even better."

Test engineering prowess
The competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, tests the prowess of engineering students.

Team members design and construct a chemically powered vehicle within certain size constraints. The vehicle must be designed to also carry a specified cargo - in the case this past weekend, 400 milliliters of water over a 65-foot course. The car-like vehicles are powered by chemical reactions of alternative fuels created by the students.

Here's the tricky part: The student teams aren't told the distance the car must travel or the amount of cargo it must carry until just before competition. That twist requires a host of precision calculations nearly on the fly. The competition's winner is determined by a combined score — for traveling the correct distance and for creativity.

Manhattan College first
In the Mid-Atlantic competition, Manhattan College finished first with an entry stopping one-inch from the end of the 65-foot course. Bucknell's entry stopped just two inches from the line, locking up a solid second place. Cornell University's car finished third, 18 inches from the line.

The Bucknell team car was powered by polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells running on pure hydrogen gas. The team is sponsored by Air Products and Chemicals Inc.

In addition to the car competition, Bucknell students took home second place in a game of "ChemE Jeopardy" against teams from several other schools.

Contact: Division of Communications

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