April 21, 2009

Bucknell students prepare their vehicle for competition.

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By Sam Alcorn

LEWISBURG, Pa. – Bucknell University chemical and mechanical engineering students attending a regional conference of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers brought home a pile of awards as well as an invitation to compete at the institute’s premier national conference in November.

Among the awards, Bucknell students, competing among a pool of more than 150 students from 16 universities, took first place in the ChemE Car Competition at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Student Conference held this year at Hampton University in Virginia.

“Team members design and construct a chemically powered vehicle within certain size constraints,” said Tim Raymond, assistant professor of chemical engineering, who, along with Erin Jablonski, assistant professor of chemical engineering, accompanied the five Bucknell students to the competition. “The teams of five or more students are told 30 minutes before the competition the distance that their vehicle must travel and the cargo weight it will carry.”

Engineering prowess
The contest’s winner is determined by the team getting closest to the specified distance. It is an opportunity for the students to exhibit their engineering prowess and precision calculations under stringent deadline conditions.

Using a proton exchange membrane fuel cell car, the Bucknell team on Saturday, April 18, came within 24 inches of the target finish line – spectacularly close and a first-place finish. As a result, they received an automatic invitation to compete against the nine regional finalists from around the country at the national conference Nov. 6-9 in Nashville, Tenn.

Bucknell’s ChemE Car team includes Eric Dybeck, Ben Aldrich and Damon Vinciguerra, all Class of '11. Additional members of the ChemE Car Team not present at the actual competition included chemical engineers Brian Smith, Class of '09, Nick Hanes, Class of '09, Andrew Lowrie, Class of '11, Brian Priolo, Class of '11, and Drew Bundschuh, Class of '11, and mechanical engineer Chris Shake, Class of '09.

'Great success'
“It was a great success,” said Raymond who also serves as advisor to Bucknell’s student chapter of the institute’s chemical engineers.  Bucknell’s competition included teams from Carnegie Mellon, Penn State University, the University of Virginia, West Virginia University and Rowan University.

Bucknell's Renee Perry, Class of '09, took third place in the Paper Competition while Ben Aldrich, Class of '11, and Janet Tesfai, Class of '10, took first and second place, respectively, in the Poster Competition.

or the paper and poster competitions, students presented technical research conducted in the past year usually with a Bucknell faculty mentor.

Research presentations
Perry, working with professor Jablonski, presented a paper titled, “Formation and Separation of Calcium Alginate Capsules in a Microfluidic Device.”

Aldrich, who worked with Kat Wakabayashi, an assistant professor of chemical engineering, presented on “Solid State Fabrication of Polymer Nanocomposites.” Tesfai, also working professor Jablonski, presented research titled, “Capsule Formation and Separation in a Microfluidic Device.”

Last year, Bucknell chemical and mechanical engineering students took sixth place in the national ChemE Car competition held in Philadelphia.

Contact: Division of Communications