The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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ExxonMobil Sponsors UMass Amherst Chem-E-Car Team

ExxonMobil has made a generous contribution of $3,000 to support the UMass Amherst chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and its Chem-E-Car team, which is constructing a chemically powered model car to compete at the 2014 Northeast Regional AIChE Conference at MIT. Every year, a team of approximately 20 dedicated UMass chemical engineering undergraduate students competes in the AIChE-sponsored event. The Chem-E-Car Competition requires each team to build a self-propelled model car that, driven by a chemical reaction alone, travels a pre-set distance while carrying a pre-determined weight.

The sponsorship provided by ExxonMobil will go towards the cost of the materials and tools necessary to create the Chem-E-Car, such as the 3D printer that has allowed the team to produce optimal structural pieces for the chassis and reaction chamber.

“We are excited to represent ExxonMobil as our sponsor at this conference of nearly 300 people,” said AIChE board member Marianne Sleiman in a letter to the company, “and we hope to demonstrate to you that an investment in our chapter is an investment in a bright, determined team of chemical engineers at UMass Amherst.”

In the regional competition, the UMass Amherst Chem-E-Car team members will pit their engineering skills against teams from up to 20 universities such as MIT, RPI, and Cornell. “In doing so,” wrote Sleiman, “the [team members] sacrifice hundreds of hours each, designing, constructing, and testing their car to be ready for the day of the competition.”

As the Chem-E-Car team captain, Christian Haughout, explained, the Chem-E-Car competition inspires future engineers to learn the fundamentals of design and manufacturing as well as receive hands-on experience in the lab. Team members must engineer and construct a chemically powered model vehicle to within a stringent set of size and safety constraints. The goal of the competition is for the vehicle to be able to carry a specified cargo for a predetermined distance. The teams will be told at the time of the competition the distance that the car must travel and the weight of the cargo that the vehicle will carry. The winner will be determined by which car is the most creative and travels the correct distance as specified by the judges.

“In previous years,” as Sleiman explained to ExxonMobil, “we have used a hydrogen fuel cell, but as required by the rules, this year we are completing a redesign, which is why we need to ask for your support.”

Sleiman noted that this donation couldn’t have been made possible without the patience and hard work of Mr. Kevin Ferreira and Mr. Shazad Shafi from ExxonMobil, as well as the support and guidance of College of Engineering Lecturer Michael Sarli, Career Services Director Cheryl Brooks, and Chemical Engineering Professor T.J. Mountziaris. (November 2014)

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