The Virginia Tech Chem-E-Car team placed first in this year’s Chem-E-Car competition at the 2019 Mid Atlantic Regional American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Student Conference at Pennsylvania State University. The finish qualifies the team for the national competition next fall in Orlando, Florida.

The first place finish at the regional event is the second in the team’s history, The first was in 2014. This is the team’s sixth consecutive top five finish at the regional competition; this year they competed against 21 other cars from other universities. 

The competition tests a team's ability to design and construct a shoebox-sized car powered by a chemical energy source that safely carries a specified load to a target distance and stops via the direct control of a chemical reaction.

This year the Virginia Tech undergraduate student team focused on designing a completely new drive system for the car. Despite the challenge, a sophisticated on-board computer and expert knowledge of chemistry to power and stop the car propelled this team to victory.

2019 Chem-E-Car Team poses for a photo. Their small car sits on a table in front of them.
The 2019 Chem-E-Car team

Virginia Tech’s team consists of chemical engineering undergraduate students, including three seniors: team leader Austin Porfiri, Wenting Shi, and Hao Li; and twelve juniors: Sara Schlemmer, Josh Rasco, Paul Stiles, Franklin Sheng, Emma Dartevelle, Sarah Adam, Ryan Stephen, Nish Shanmugham, Lindsey Wallen, Carlos Prieto, Jess George, and Jim Owens. Their faculty advisor is Gary Whiting, Joseph H. Collie Professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Chemical Engineering.

The team thanks the generous financial support of Virginia Tech alumnus Steve Cope of ExxonMobil and the Student Engineers’ Council. The team also wishes to thank the staff in the Department of Chemical Engineering for administrative and technical support.

Written by Austin Porfiri