April 26, 2012

Bucknell's ChemE car team

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — A team of Bucknell University chemical engineering students finished first in the regional ChemE competition sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

Bucknell's ChemE Jeopardy team, led by junior Mark Paleafico and senior Damon Vinciguerra, placed first in a competition matching the chemistry, math and engineering knowledge of ChemEs from across the Mid-Atlantic region. The first-place finish earns them a spot at the national competition this fall. Only the first-place finishers from the nine regional competitions may compete at nationals. 

Fourteen Bucknell students and their adviser, Tim Raymond, associate professor of chemical engineering, attended the regional conference hosted by the Stevens Institute of Technology.

While at the conference, students attended several chemical engineering workshops and networking events in addition to competing in the ChemE Car competition and the AIChE Student Paper Competition.

"Bucknell was well-represented with six students presenting out of a total of 28 posters and talks," said Raymond. Sophomore Alyssa Whittington earned second place in the Paper Competition for her work on "Fabrication of polymer nanocomposites with effective exfoliation and dispersion using the solid-state/melt extrusion (SSME) technique" and junior Laura Duffy was awarded third place in the Poster Competition for her work on "Particle encapsulation and recovery in a microfluidic device."

The goal of the ChemE Car competition is to design and construct a shoebox-sized car running on a chemical reaction that will carry a specified load an exact distance. The distance and load are announced only one hour before the competition, so students must have an excellent understanding of the chemical reactions powering their car so that they can adjust the reactants appropriately. The winner is the car able to stop closest to the finish line.

"Bucknell's team, sponsored by Air Products, came in ninth on a very difficult and 'sticky' course," said Raymond, who added, "The plastic covering on the gymnasium floor also worked against several other university teams with six of the 15 teams unable to move from the starting line." Bucknell's ChemE Car team placed second nationwide in 2010.

The national competition (AIChE Annual Student Conference) will be held in Pittsburgh this October, co-hosted by the Bucknell University AIChE student chapter.  

Contact: Division of Communications