From March 29 to 31, the University of Massachusetts Amherst chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) hosted the 2019 Eckhardt Northeast Student Regional AIChE Conference. The event attracted about 200 attendees from 19 different universities in the northeast U.S. and Canada; all coming to network, participate in workshops, and compete in several events, including the regional Chem-E-Car Competition, a Jeopardy-style chemical engineering quiz for student teams, a poster contest, and a paper competition. The UMass team won the Jeopardy contest, and UMass ChE students Josh McGee and Jake Bradner (collaborating for second) and Sarah Duquette (third) placed in the poster contest.
The goal of this event is to provide an opportunity for serious-minded chemical engineering students to come together and share their technical knowledge, compare notes on their university experiences and plans for the future, and meet with industry professionals. The student-run event was organized by AIChE Chapter President Daniel Bell, Shubham Aggarwal, Anna Comperchio, Elizabeth Voke, Timur Niyazov, and Benjamin Frich under the guidance of faculty advisor Peter Beltramo of the ChE department.
The conference was kickstarted with a keynote presentation by Chemical Engineering Professor Jessica Schiffman, who asked the students to reflect on how they became chemical engineering majors. She also inspired the audience with her career trajectory and problem-solving approach in her laboratory.
A highlight of the conference was the popular Chem-E-Car Competition, for which students design, build, and run model vehicles powered and controlled by chemical reactions. No mechanical timers, brakes, or commercial batteries are allowed. The finishers for the competition were McGill University in first, followed by Northeastern University and Cornell University. McGill also won the Chem-E-Car Poster Competition.
The Chem-E-Car Competition requires each team to build a self-propelled model car that, driven only by a chemical reaction, travels a pre-set distance while carrying a pre-determined volume of water. The catch is that competitors learn only minutes before the competition the exact distance their car must travel and the volume of water it must carry, and they must calibrate their cars to that exact distance and volume.
There was also a Chem-E-Jeopardy competition, based on the rules of the famous TV Jeopardy quiz, but focusing on chemical engineering material. Teams of four students apiece competed for Jeopardy, Double Jeopardy, and Final Jeopardy. The UMass Amherst team of Eric Blanchard, Matthew Fernez, Wil McInerney, and Lindsay Paquin won this event, followed by MIT and the University of Maine.
In addition to the three UMass contestants placing in the poster contest, Daniel Krajovic of the University of Rhode Island finished first. Jay Bender of Cornell had the winning entry in the paper contest.
AIChE is a national professional organization whose objectives are to advance chemical engineering in theory and in practice, to maintain a high professional standard among its members, and to serve society, particularly where chemical engineering can contribute to the public interest.
The host UMass AIChE chapter works to serve the needs of its members and other interested students through programming that inspires personal and professional development and connects students with industry and academic professionals. The chapter also stages social programs to bring students together outside of the classroom, and it represents UMass Amherst at conferences and in competitions at regional and national levels. (May 2019)