BYU chemical engineering students put their skills to the test in a competition among 13 other universities by creating a small car that is run only by chemicals.
Students Zack Morey, Aaron Bytheway, Greg Hone and Stewart King competed with their car, “Cosmonaut”, and placed second in the Chem E Car Competition at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
Zack Morey, a sophomore from South Jordan studying chemical engineering, said participating in the competition turned out to be one of the most fun and rewarding projects he has undertaken while at BYU.
“For the competition we had to build a car that runs off of a chemical reaction,” Morey said in an email. “The competition wasn’t about who could have the fastest car or longest running car. Rather, it was about who could have the most control of the chemical reaction happening in their car.”
Aaron Bytheway, a sophomore from South Jordan studying chemical engineering said each team competes to see who can get their car to run a certain distance, the length of which they are not told until an hour before the competition. The team’s “Cosmonaut” came in at a close second.
“The first five or so cars were disqualified because their car went out of bounds, so we were feeling pretty good” Bytheway said. “Finally it was our turn and we landed 1.4 feet away, meaning we took second by about four inches.”
Professor Morris Argyle, chemical engineering professor, serves as the advisor for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers chapter at BYU and traveled to the competition with the students. He said the students did an outstanding job and had a unique car design.
“The design, with a piston to capture the energy of the expanding gas from the chemical reaction which was then transferred to the wheels by the rack and pinion gearing, is unique and worked exceptionally well,” Argyle said in an email.
Professor Dean Wheeler, chemical engineering professor, has been the advisor for BYU’s Chem E Car teams for eight years. He said he provides technical and safety advice, but does not manage the team or make design decisions.
“This is truly a student-led effort,” Wheeler said. “This team worked really hard and has been the best team I’ve been able to work with.”