ChE Students Win National Chem-E Car National Championship
ChE students and faculty have a long history of winning alternative fuel vehicle competitions, including an exciting win in Glasgow, Scotland at the first international contest for model cars powered only by a chemical reaction.
On July 10, 2005, The University of Tulsa won the first international contest for model cars powered only by a chemical reaction.
The TU team prevailed at the competition in Scotland despite travel delayed by hurricanes, airplane malfunctions and the subway bombings in London, and damage to the car during shipping, which forced a student to go dumpster diving to find a replacement part.
Nine teams from seven countries went to the International Chem-E-Car Challenge in Glasgow to see which one of their model cars could come closest to the finish line, 16.5 meters away (about 54 feet), while carrying 375 grams (about 12 ounces) of water. TU’s car, the “Hydrogen Hurricane,” came within 15 centimeters (about six inches) of the line to claim first place, including 1,000 pounds, or about $1,800.
TU’s car is powered by energy from hydrogen fuel cells that is stored in ultracapacitors and then discharged to a motor through a circuit containing a magnesium strip. The car stops when a hydrochloric acid solution eats through the strip and breaks the circuit.
TU’s vehicle, shipped separately, arrived on the eve of the contest with a damaged foam panel, about 5 inches by 8 inches, which holds and insulates the capacitors. With stores closed, TU junior Taylor Coleman peered into some garbage bins near their hotel and retrieved a cardboard pizza box from which a replacement part was cut. “It was disgusting but it was what we had to do at the time to get the car running,” said Coleman.
The TU team was made up of all chemical engineering majors, and chemical engineering professor Christi Patton, team advisor, also went.
Fund raising to help pay for TU’s trip included the sale of T-shirts bearing a phrase the students created and making reference to the university’s founding date: “The University of Tulsa, Out-Nerding the Competition Since 1894.”