Illinois I-mark

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Illinois hosts AIChE conference

More than 200 students converged on the University of Illinois campus this past weekend for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ regional student conference.

Students competed in a variety of events, such as ChemE Jeopardy, toured nearby wastewater treatment and chemical manufacturing plants, received career advice from industry insiders, shared posters on their research, and more.

Students prepare for the ChemE Car competition in Kenney Gym on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015.
Students prepare for the ChemE Car competition in Kenney Gym on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015.

A highlight of the conference was the Chemical Engineering Car Competition, according to U of I student and regionals chair Ellery Marks, a junior from Deerfield, IL.

In this popular event, teams build a car that is powered by a chemical reaction. The car can be no bigger than a shoebox and teams have two minutes for the car to carry a certain amount of water a specific distance. After two minutes, the car has to stop. The top five teams advance to nationals, which will be held later this year in Salt Lake City.

In 2014, the Illinois team qualified for nationals.

“I don’t think any of us had cheered for Illinois sports as much as we cheered for ChemE Car,” Marks said. “We were in the stands wearing orange, singing the Alma Mater and screaming I-L-L and I-N-I. It’s a very fun competition and what I like about it is you get very excited for the other teams as well. If a car gets disqualified, no one is excited about it. Everyone feels bad because we know how hard people worked on their cars. There’s a lot of camaraderie, which is really great,” she said.

That camaraderie was on display Saturday as students and supporters filled Kenney Gym to cheer on cars with names like “Sven” and “Husky Hot Dog.”

Those moving on to the national ChemE Car competition this year will be the University of Cincinnati (first place), Youngstown State (second), Illinois Institute of Technology (third), University of Toledo (fourth) and University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (fifth).

Students came from colleges and universities throughout the region, including the University of Michigan, Purdue University and the Ohio State University, to attend the annual conference. This was the first time in at least a decade Illinois has hosted the event. Planning has been underway for well over a year, Marks said. About 30 students, from freshmen to graduate level, volunteered.

“We’d been looking forward to this for a long time,” Marks said.

Marks and her fellow organizers also made sure to carve out plenty of networking opportunities for attendees, including an evening mixer with a DJ at Venue 51.
On Saturday evening, Russell Moroz, vice president of research and development and quality at Kraft Food Groups delivered the keynote address at the concluding banquet.

Several awards were also presented at the banquet. In the Research Poster Competition, Isaura Frost from Purdue University was awarded first place, Christopher Browne from Purdue won second and Alexander Golinski from the University of Michigan placed third. Golinski also garnered a first place in the Research Paper Competition. The University of Minnesota earned a top place for ChemE Jeopardy.

In the ChemE Car poster contest, first place went to Michigan Technological University and second place went to Youngstown State University. Tying for third place were University of Cincinnati and the University of Michigan’s Mach 7.4 car. The University of Cincinnati won the Spirit Award.

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