Engineers craft win
The UH chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers won first place at the regional level of the Chem-E-Car competition in Beaumont on March 8, qualifying to compete at the national level in Salt Lake City.
The challenge was to design a car that would travel a distance of 50 feet while carrying a water bottle. The distance was revealed to each team a few hours before the competition.
“The car runs on the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide in the presence of ferric chloride, which is a catalyst (and) accelerates the reaction,” team member Walter Barta said. “Basically, it produces a bunch of gas, and the gas builds pressure in the tank. The tank feeds to a pneumatic drill, which is like an air-powered tool (that) propels the wheels.”
“Air goes to the drill, and the drill essentially uses it just like any other motor to turn the gear, just like it would in your car. It’s pretty much the same way a car works,” team member Kennan Stuhr said.
Team members Richard Ma, Tola Ouk, Abel Morales, Vinh Nguyen, Allen Lo, Jorge Cubas, Barta and Stuhr named the car “Cougalac — the Cougar Cadillac.” The Cougalac consists of four main parts: the reactor, cooler, regulator and pneumatic motor.
“Richard was the leader because he was pushing for a pressure driven car. He’s the one with the biggest idea,” Ouk said.
The Cougalac weighs 26 pounds and can carry a load of 30 pounds.
“The UH car was the heaviest by a long shot … 10 times heavier,” Stuhr said. “Everyone was looking at the UH car because it was so big.”
The UH team competed against eight universities, including Rice University, Lamar University, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University and Texas A&M-Kingsville.
The Cougalac stole the show with a 44-foot first run compared to A&M’s 2-inch first trial. In the second trial, the Cougalac got within 2 feet of the required goal while A&M’s car traveled a distance of 6 feet.
“We won because we got 2 feet from the goal line,” Barta said.
Rice could not figure out the water problems that it had, and Tech’s car broke down, leaving A&M as the only real competition.
“We overcame all the problems that they (A&M) had. The biggest key to the competition was consistency,” Stuhr said.
Morales said that he and his teammates more than deserved the win for their hard work.
“We didn’t win because the other teams’ cars didn’t work,” Morales said. “We won because our car was so good.”