University of Tulsa Students Take 1st Place in Chem-E-Car Competition

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Student Conference Chem-E-Car Competition, sponsored by Chevron took place November 3, 2013 in San Francisco.  University of Tulsa chemical engineering students brought home 1st place with their “Oxidants Happen” vehicle. 

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The competitive field included 32 teams from around the world.  The annual National Chem-E-Car collegiate competition prods students to test their knowledge of how to power a toy car, roughly the size of a shoe box, for a specific distance.  The tricky part is to control the chemical reaction powering the vehicle to make sure that the car travels the required distance without going over the finish line.  An hour before the competition, teams receive the required weight for their vehicle and the distance to travel.  Precision is the key in this race.  It isn’t about how fast you get to the finish line.  This is about stopping as close to the line as possible.

Students from the University of Tulsa built a car with an 8-cell battery with magnesium and manganese dioxide, a renewable power source, a gear box taken from a model car, and a frame with wheels and axles built out of purchased parts. – Chem car contest for engineering students like Super Bowl, Julian Guthrie, SF Gate, November 3, 2013

The Chem-E car for the winning team earned its name, “Oxidants Happen”, because the team at TU developed their driving mechanism on accident.  This team worked on developing their car for nearly a year.  They began just after the Thanksgiving break last year, and their hard work culminated with the Annual Student Conference Chem-E-Car Competition in San Francisco, CA.

You can watch an interview with some of the team members below.  They discuss the accident that powers their vehicle and provides its name.

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Each team was given a spending limit of $2,000, and the winning team took home a bit of cash for their school.  The purse for this race, $2,000. Teams who entered biologically powered cars, those powered with items such as lemons or beef liver enzymes, received special recognition for their achievement.  On the flip side, if your car smoked, leaked or…combusted, the team was disqualified.

“We’re all about safety, said Professor James Smith, indicating the students decked out in lab coats, protective eye wear, and latex gloves.  Even the floors were covered in plastic.  Professor Cliff Henderson, with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s school of chemical and biomolecular engineering, said the event is about “team building and working collaboratively.”  This is a chance for students to take the classroom knowledge they’ve gained and apply it to problems in the real-world….like energy. (Chem car contest for engineering students like Super Bowl, Julian Guthrie, SF Gate, November 3, 2013)

So how close is close enough?  Well, here are the results from the top three teams.  The University of Tulsa stopped their vehicle just 3.0 centimeters from the finish line.  City College of New York took 2nd place with their car coming to a halt 6.0 centimeters from the finish line, and coming in 3rd was the University of Houston stopping their vehicle 13.0 centimeters from the line.


The University of Tulsa is ranked in the top 100 colleges among doctoral universities according to U.S. News &  World Report’s 2013 edition of America’s Best Colleges. TU students worked on the three-year Challenge X competition to reduce automobile pollution and improve energy consumption, and placed among the top five teams for transforming a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox into a diesel-electric hybrid vehicle.  The university also has a Cyber Corp Program that trains elite squadrons of “cyber warriors”, who work within the U.S. government and military to protect and defend America’s critical infrastructure.  These engineering students are no slouches.  Check out other University of Tulsa achievements here.

The University of Tulsa commitment to the energy industry doesn’t stop there.  TU has created a Masters of Energy Business program for working professionals to become idea generators as well as .  The program is designed to provide the” breadth of business knowledge and skills that energy professionals need to address changing and expanding industry needs”.    The program takes the business practices and principles that you typically find in an MBA program and combines that with today’s energy issues to create a program the is energy focused.  Their website states that the Spring 2014 class is already full.