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Ohio University chemical engineering students place at regional chemical car competition
Individual student wins poster competition


By Colleen Carow and Valerie Young

ATHENS, Ohio (April 30, 2012) -- Sophomores and juniors studying chemical engineering at Ohio University’s Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology are headed to a national chemical car competition after placing third at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) student regionals April 20-21, 2012 at the University of Akron.  Chem E Car experiment 2012

Also at the conference, chemical engineering senior Luis Delgadillo won first place in the undergraduate research poster competition (tissue and protein engineering division).

Ohio is part of the North Central region of AIChE, which also includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and western New York.

Initiated in 1999, the event requires teams to design and construct a vehicle that will fit inside a boot box, carry up to 500 ml of water (about two cups) and travel a certain distance. The vehicle that stops closest to the specified distance wins.

Ohio’s “S-pee-d Racer” stopped just 18 inches from the 71-foot target distance.  

Junior Jake Tennant noted the car achieved that distance on its first run. “It’s so challenging to get consistent performance from the fuel cells and hit the target,” he said.  

The vehicle’s power source and stopping mechanism must be chemical, not purely mechanical.  

Chem E Car photo 2012The 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, Russ Professor Gerardine Botte.  
“It’s really exciting to see that the little car uses technology developed at Ohio University,” Botte said.

Twelve teams competed in the race, presented a poster explaining the design and submitted to intense questioning about design and safety from the competition judges.

Chemical engineering doctoral candidate Veda Vedharathinam served as graduate student mentor. A graduate assistant in the Center for Electrochemical Engineering Research, which Botte directs, Veda supervises the students’ lab activities in the lab and provides technical feedback throughout the design and build process.

The team is currently making modifications to improve the car’s performance while fund raising for the national competition -- Oct. 28 in Pittsburgh. An extra curricular activity, the Chem-E-Car team is funded by donations, not by university tuition and fees.  

“Because this is such a great experience, we should send two teams to regionals next spring,” said junior Ben Jared.

The team also plans to recruit freshmen.

Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Valerie Young noted the design of the competition makes teamwork unique.Chem E Car team 2 by Rebecca Curry 2012

“Because the qualifying rounds are in spring and the national competition is the following fall, the team has to hold together over two academic years. This really gets the different classes working together,” she said.

Members are juniors Mike Bates, Liz Cohenour, Nic Dunfee, Andrew Eliopoulos, David Homol, Ben Jared, Jake Tennant and  William Simons. Sophomores are Rebecca Curry, Sarah Miller, Ryanne Oldham, Courtney Paul and Alicia Sproul.

Poster winner Delgadillo, who plans to go on to graduate school in biomedical engineering, was honored for his poster "The Dynamic cellular adhesivity of breast cancer cells conferred by CD44 varies with mesenchymal or epithelial phenotype."

The Russ College team won an award at the national competition in fall 2010 for “Inherently Safe Design.” 

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