260512 Bringing Chemical Engineering to the Masses Through a Fuel Cell Car Demo and Competition

Monday, October 29, 2012
Hall B (Convention Center )
Robert G. Bozic, Chemistry and Life Science, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY

    The first West Point Fuel Cell Car Demonstration and Chemical Engineering Car competition was planned, developed, and executed in order to inspire chemical engineering majors, prospective students, and parents about chemical engineering and the West Point American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) ChemE Car team.  The inspiration for this event was based on the desire for an easily transportable hands-on chemical engineering demonstration for West Point Chemical Engineering Faculty and Cadets.  The purpose was to enable involvement in a competitive chemical engineering experience built on the foundations of the AIChE ChemE Car competition without becoming overly burdensome due to logistical and safely requirements. To meet the logistical and safety challenge, seven of the Thames and Kosmos X7 fuel cell cars affectionately named after the Army Mules (Spartacus, Buckshot, Ranger, Raider, Trooper, Trotter, and Black Jack) were used.  Over 150 cadets, visitors, and guests were introduced to the competition concept and encouraged to participate at increasing levels of complexity.  Two levels of competition were developed, “Speed Racer” and “Chemical Engineer”.  The “Speed Racer” level included chemical safety, basic principles of the mass and energy balance, and emphasis on the chemical engineering nature of the competition.  The “Chemical Engineer” level emphasized the basics as well as error analysis, computer aided design using Chem CAD, efficiency calculations, and a more deliberate approach to understanding effects of error on the equations used to estimate the volume of hydrogen gas required to travel the desired distance.

 


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