University of Missouri-Rolla students showed their chemical engineering savvy last week by placing second in chemical reaction-powered, autonomous vehicle competition held on campus. UMR’s “Miner Missile” car earned the team a return trip to the national competition set for November in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The competition was part of the two-day 2007 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Mid-America Regional Conference hosted by the UMR AIChE student chapter. Hundreds of chemical engineering students from nine Midwest campuses were on the UMR campus for research paper and poster competitions, a hazardous materials demonstration and other events.
The ChemE Car competition challenged teams to design and build a shoebox-sized car that could carry an additional load a specified distance. UMR’s “Miner Missile” stopped 21.5 inches away from the line, just more than a foot past the University of Oklahoma’s “Windmills Work this Way” first-place team and seven inches in front of the University of Oklahoma’s “Lights OUt” third-place team. All three cars earned a spot in the national AIChE competition.
The Miner Missile is powered by a custom-built, lead-acid battery that runs an electric motor. A magnesium strip, wired inline with the motor, and an acid concentration were used to control the car’s distance. When the strip dissolved into the hydrochloric acid solution, the car came to a stop.
Team members geared down the motor nearly 25-to-1 to obtain the correct velocity. In addition, a magnetically coupled agitator was added to the sealed reaction chamber to ensure a consistent reaction.
Members of the UMR Chem-E Car Team include:
Dr. Daniel Forciniti, professor of chemical and biological engineering, served as the team’s advisor. In addition, Dean Lenz, senior electronic technician for the chemical and biological engineering department, machined the car’s aluminum chassis, which supports the vehicle’s many components.