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ChemE Car Team Places Fifth at AIChE Chem-E-Car Competition

December 09, 2022

The University of Kentucky ChemE Car team recently competed at the National American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Chem-E-Car Competition in Phoenix, Arizona, where they placed fifth out of 40 universities worldwide.

Competitors must design and build a car that can travel anywhere between 15-30 meters in under two minutes using only chemical reactions to power and stop their car – the team whose car gets closest to the target distance wins.

“An hour before the competition started, we were given a distance of 22 meters for our car to travel,” said Sarah Caldbeck, a senior studying chemical engineering. “We got 46 cm away from the finish line, putting us in fifth place.” 

The starting mechanism for their car featured a Zn-NiOOH battery (Zinc - Nickel Oxyhydroxide) built by the team. Their stopping mechanism involved a sodium thiosulfate clock reaction.

“Once the solution turned opaque, the laser could no longer hit a photoresistor on the other side of the solution, signaling the car to stop,” said Caldbeck.

UK’s ChemE Car team is a student-run organization that designs and constructs a small vehicle to compete in regional and national chemical engineering car competitions AIChe. Students use their knowledge of computer science, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering to create the car. Members are given the opportunity to develop their technical and leadership skills while participating in a highly collegial environment.