A group of first-year Griffith University environmental engineering students enjoyed a successful debut in the Chem-E-Car competition at the recent Asia Pacific Confederation of Chemical Engineering in Melbourne.

The competition challenges students’ ability to design and build a car that uses a chemical reaction, or reactions, to power it and control the distance it travels carrying a specified load.

The goal is to have your car stop closest to a specified finish line, thus demonstrating the ability to control a chemical reaction.

The effectiveness of the car is strongly dependent on its mechanical robustness, so success relies on more than theory alone.

Griffith’s team — Matthew Watson, Will Stockdale, Claudia Smith, Robin Klein, Bryce Davies, Brock Marron, Yudhish Bhinkah and Omer Khan — came up with a carbon/aluminium-based electrochemical reaction to drive the car. They used a screw-free fabrication design.

Faced with strong competition from the Asia Pacific region that featured mainly fourth year chemical engineering students, Griffith performed creditably to finish eighth out of the 15 teams.

The team was supervised by Dr Qin Li and Mr Shujun Wang, from the Queensland Micro- and Nanotechnology Centre, and the School of Engineering’s Dr Andrew Busch.

“Chem-E-Car is a fun, interactive and open-ended learning experience for students,” says Dr Li.

“The competition is about working as a team to design a complex chemical process reaction to a tight schedule with a fixed budget.

“It also tests the ability to design a working chemical reactor that must operate under real conditions, and requires contestants to be flexible and fast thinking.

“This is one of the initiatives of the School of Engineering’s Experiential Learning implementation and, for our first time in the competition, the Griffith team can be very proud of its performance.”