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AIChE student chapter chemical car team wins 2nd place in regional competition

By Cassie Montgomery

Published: May 4, 2022 4:50:00 PM

Auburn's 2022 AIChE chemical engineering car team Auburn's 2022 AIChE chemical engineering car team

The Auburn University student chapter of the American Institute for Chemical Engineers (AIChE) is heading to nationals to pit their chemical-powered car against the best of the best. The team earned a national competition berth after coming in second place in the AIChE southeastern regional conference hosted virtually by North Carolina State University.

“This year we changed all of our chemistry – so new power and stopping reactions – as well as added additional safety measures to the car design,” said Caleb Kirk, chemical engineering (ChemE) car team captain and a rising senior in chemical engineering. “Winning second place is especially awesome since we are in the most competitive region for car team.”

The ChemE car competition requires university teams to build a car powered and stopped solely by chemical reactions. The cars are required to travel a set distance and stop as closely to the end line as possible.

“The power reaction generates electricity to power the car’s motors while the stopping reaction is aimed at cutting the power to the motor whenever the desired distance has been met,” he said. “Our team uses a potassium permanganate galvanic cell for power and a potassium iodine clock reaction for stopping.” 

The team now has its sights set on the national competition, which will be held in conjunction with the AIChE Annual Meeting in Phoenix in November. To prepare, they will be testing various concentrations of their chemicals to try to improve their precision.

“We will be experimenting with concentrations of our stopping reaction to try and create a more reliable combination of chemicals to allow us to be as accurate as possible,” he said. “We will also be adding some car design changes to allow for a new mechanism of adding chemicals to the car.”

Kirk joined Auburn’s AIChE chapter as a freshman and has been a member of the ChemE car team since he arrived on The Plains. Prior to ascending to car team captain, he served as a team lead and then a co-captain.

“Car team has been such a fun and involved team where I have been able to find friends and apply many classroom concepts into a lab-type setting,” he said.

Media Contact: Cassie Montgomery, cmontgomery@auburn.edu, 334.844.3668

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