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S-pee-d Racer Takes Off!

Ohio University's Chem-E-Car team placed third in the student regional competition held April 20 – 21, 2012 at the University of Akron.  That earns them one of 31 slots for the national competition in Pittsburgh on October 28, 2012.  "Because the qualifying rounds are in spring, and then the national competition is the following fall, the team has to hold together over two academic years.  It really gets the classes working together," says Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department chair Valerie Young.

The Chem-E-Car competition was started by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in 1999.  The event requires performance, creativity, and strict attention to safety.  Teams design and construct a vehicle that will fit inside a boot box and carry up to 500 milliliters (about 2 cups) of water.  The exact distance that the vehicle must travel and amount of water it must carry are revealed just before the race.  The vehicle stopping closest to the specified distance wins.  Both the power source and the stopping mechanism for the vehicle must be chemical, not purely mechanical.  To win third place, Ohio's S-pee-d Racer stopped a mere 18 inches from the 71-foot target distance.  Junior Jake Tennant reported, "We achieved that third-place distance on our first run, which was awesome.  It is so challenging to get consistent performance from the fuel cells and hit the target."

Ohio is part of the North Central region of the AIChE, which also includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and western New York.  There were 12 teams competing at the University of Akron event.  In addition to designing and building their car, each team presented a poster explaining their design and submitted to intense questioning about design and safety from the competition judges.  Design and safety documentation was required a month prior to the competition for expert review.  The Ohio University team won an award at the national competition in Fall 2010 for Inherently Safe Design.


The students dubbed their vehicle "S-pee-d Racer" because it is fueled by the patented wastewater-to-hydrogen electrochemical system invented by their faculty advisor, Professor Gerardine Botte.  Says Professor Botte, "It is really exciting to see that the little car uses technology developed at Ohio University."  Chemical engineering graduate student Veda Vedharathinam is the student mentor for the team.  A second-year PhD student in the Center for Electrochemical Engineering Research with Dr. Botte, Veda supervises the students' activities in the lab and provides technical feedback as they design and build the car.

The team is working both on fundraising to help them get to Pittsburgh as well as on some modifications to improve S-pee-d Racer's performance.  As an extracurricular activity, the Chem-E-Car team is funded by donations, not by university tuition and fees.  "Because this is such a great experience," junior Ben Jared says, "we should send two teams to regionals next spring."  "Recruiting current freshmen is also part of the plan," he says.

The thirteen members of the 2011-2012 Ohio University Chem-E-Car team are listed below.

Chemical Engineering Juniors        
Nic Dunfee (Little Hocking, Ohio)
Liz Cohenour (Albany, Ohio) 
Andrew Eliopoulos (Lorain, Ohio)
Mike Bates (Pickerington, Ohio)
Ben Jared (Westerville, Ohio)
David Homol (Moon Township, Pennsylvania)
Jake Tennant (Pickerington, Ohio)
William Simons (Lancaster, Ohio)

Chemical Engineering Sophomores
Alicia Sproul (Belmont, Ohio)
Courtney Paul (Greenfield, Ohio)
Rebecca Curry (Geauga, Ohio)
Ryanne Oldham (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio)
Sarah Miller (Dublin, Ohio)

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Russ College of Engineering and Technology
171 Stocker Center
Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701-2979
Tel: 740.593.1492
Fax: 740.593.0873
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