ChemE Car Team Headed to National Competition After Third-Place Finish

Chemical engineering students and faculty had reason to be revved up recently, as their ChemE car team finished third at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers‘ Southern Regional Conference, qualifying them for the national competition.

ChemE car team members receive a plaque and certificate for placing third in the regional competition. Team members, from left, include Christopher Neal, Mary McBride, Melanie Lindsey, Matthew Sodl, faculty advisor Gabriel Goenaga, Christian Wilson, Samantha Medina, and Aston Thompson.

ChemE car team members receive a plaque and certificate for placing third in the regional competition. Team members, from left, include Christopher Neal, Mary McBride, Melanie Lindsey, Matthew Sodl, faculty advisor Gabriel Goenaga, Christian Wilson, Samantha Medina, and Aston Thompson.

In the competition, small cars powered by means of an electrochemical reaction—such as batteries, fuel cells, or compressed gases—attempt to travel a specified distance, with the winning car being the one that comes closest to that distance.

Teams don’t learn what the distance will be until thirty minutes before the start of the event, leaving little time for adjustments and modifications.

“This might sound simple but it is very challenging because each team needs to know very well the speed of the car and to have a stopping mechanism that will get the car as close as possible to the finish line,” said Gabriel Goenaga, senior research associate in the department and the team’s faculty advisor. “Also, depending on where the competition takes place, the teams have to deal with different types of flooring, which can affect performance as well.”

Held in Clearwater Beach, Florida, the conference is the biggest regional for the AIChE. Universities across the Southeast fielded twenty teams, with the top five teams earning the right to compete at the national conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, in November.

In addition to Goenaga, team members included seniors Aston Thompson and Christian Wilson; sophomores Melanie Lindsey, Mary McBride, Samantha Medina and Matthew Sodl; freshman Christopher Neal; and Douglas Aaron, a senior research associate in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering, acting as safety advisor.

CONTACT:

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)