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Clarkson University Places Third in ChemE Car Competition
[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/chem-e-car-2011.jpg.]
This spring, eleven students from the Clarkson University ChemE Car team competed at the northeast regional American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) conference at the University of Rhode Island.
Each year, the team designs and builds a shoebox-sized car powered and stopped by chemical reactions.
The Clarkson team finished in third place, edged out by only two inches for second place by the University of Maine. The Clarkson team was also awarded the “most creative poster” award.
The third-place finish was enough to qualify for the fall's national competition for only the second time in its six-year history. The team will compete at the AIChE national meeting, to be held in October in Minneapolis.
Clarkson's team used aluminum-air fuel cells to power the car, and the iodine clock reaction to stop the car.
The fuel cells operate by using activated carbon to catalyze the reduction of oxygen in the air into hydroxide ions, which then travel through an electrolyte membrane to an aluminum anode which is oxidized, producing a potential difference.
The iodine clock reaction is a common timing mechanism in which a solution turns dark after a period of time, which is dependent on the concentration of a number of chemicals. The team used the reaction to block light to a photo resistor, cutting the power to the motor.
The team was told an hour before the competition the distance the car must travel and the load the car must carry. For this year’s competition, cars had to travel 51 feet with a load of 400 grams. Based on extensive calibrations of the powering and stopping mechanisms that were carried out prior to the competition, the car was prepared for this year’s course when the team prepared an iodine solution to stop the car at an appropriate time. The car that was closest to the target distance was the winner.
The conference was held at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, R.I., and attended by teams from Cornell University, the University of Maine, Northeastern University, Stony Brook University, and the University of New Hampshire.
A video can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8GEWCU0Jo4 .
The ChemE Car Team is part of the SPEED (Student Projects for Engineering Experience & Design) program, one of the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering hallmark initiatives, exemplifying Clarkson's “defy convention” approach to education. SPEED promotes multidisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities for more than 350 undergraduates annually. Projects involve engineering design, analysis, and fabrication. In addition, students learn real-world business skills, such as budget management, effective teamwork, and communications skills.
Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.
Photo caption: Judges measure the distance of the Clarkson University ChemE car from the finish line.