VT chemical-driven-car team wins international competition

The 2019-20 Virginia Tech Chem-E-Car Team

The Virginia Tech Chem-E-Car team recently placed first in the 2019 International Chem-E-Car Competition at the Annual American Institute of Chemical Engineers Student Conference in Orlando, Fla. The competition tested a team’s ability to design and construct a shoebox-sized car, powered and stopped by chemical reaction, to go 25 meters while safely carrying load of 450 grams.

The undergraduate student team competed against 42 universities from around the world, including teams from Korea, China, India, Taiwan, Brazil, Colombia, Poland and Qatar.

This year, the Virginia Tech team designed a new drive system for the car, a novel triple reaction control and stopping mechanism and a sophisticated on-board computer that propelled the team to victory.

“Being involved with the Chem-E-Car team has taught me the importance of thinking on the fly, and having an in-depth understanding of the science and engineering involved in a design,” said Jared Arkfeld, chemical engineering third-year student. “In industry, this can be the difference between a quick fix and hours of lost time and loss of profit.”

In April 2019, the team qualified for the global competition with a first-place finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regional competition held at Penn State University. The team has qualified for the competition for the past six years, but this is the team’s first overall win.

The 2019 Chem-E-Car team consisted of 12 chemical engineering undergraduate students: team lead Nish Shanmugham, Jared Arkfeld, Josh Rasco, Paul Stiles, Matt Poling, James Owens, Jess George, Ian Davis, Emma Dartevelle, Franklin Sheng, Sarah Adam, and Ryan Stephen. Their faculty advisor was Stephen Martin, associate professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Chemical Engineering.


Written by Stephen Martin and Nish Shanmugham