Chemical engineering undergraduates earn top honors at regional competition

AIChE Car Team, Auburn Chapter

L to R: Brett Mallinak, Andrew Jones, Allison Glasscock, Mieke Groothuizen, Ben Todd, Josh Boor 


Members of Auburn University's student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) earned top honors for their outstanding performances at this year's AIChE Southern Regional Competition, held recently at Georgia Institute of Technology. The Southern region is comprised of 31 universities.

Auburn's chemical car team finished fifth out of 20 teams, qualifying for the AIChE national competition this fall in Minneapolis, MN. It is the fifth time an Auburn chemical car team has earned a spot to compete at nationals. The team also received 4th place in the Regional Car Team Poster Competition. 

Team members, who built a car powered by a reaction producing carbon dioxide, include captain Mieke Groothuizen, Andrew Jones, Josh Boor, Allison Glasscock, Brett Mallinak, and Ben Todd. The team is advised by faculty member Mark Byrne and staff advisor Brian Schwieker.

"We are happy with the competition results, and we look forward to improving our performance at nationals," said team captain Mieke Groothuizen. "We have an excellent team and with the high quality of the team and car, I expect that we will compete well at nationals."

Chemical Engineering Senior Kayla Pate, advised by Dr. Mark Byrne, the Daniel F. and Josephine Breeden Associate Professor, received Third Place Overall Conference out of 25 presenters, and first place in her section for her podium presentation entitled 'Controlled and Extended Release of Anti-inflammatory from Daily Wear Soft Contact Lenses' in the paper competition. Kayla is the third student in the history of the chemical engineering department to be an overall regional conference winner. David Harris, also advised by Byrne, received second place in his section for his talk entitled 'Poly(ethylene glycol) Based Films for Controlled Release From Drug Eluting Stents', and Hunter Rogers, advised by Dr. Christopher Roberts, Uthlaut Professor and Department Chair, received third place for his presentation entitled 'The Effects of Morphology on the Catalytic Activity of Platinum Nanoparticles Synthesized Using Green Chemistry Methods.'

kayla hunter david

L to R: Kayla Pate, Hunter Rogers and David Harris


"Once again, our students did very well in the research competition and the car competition adding to our very successful history of undergraduate success in these areas," said Dr. Mark Byrne. "Over the past ten years, our students have won an impressive number of research awards totaling 16 podium presentation or paper awards, 13 poster awards, and Auburn students have won the highest national undergraduate research award 2 times since 2006. We are very proud of their significant achievements and hard work."

Founded in 2005, the Auburn AIChE Chemical Engineering Car Team is comprised of undergraduate Chemical Engineering students who annually design, build, test and modify a car powered entirely by chemical reaction in order to accurately traverse a specified distance given a certain load. The team started the 2010 season with a brand new and untested design. This new design consists of a reaction to produce carbon dioxide, used to build pressure and power a pneumatic motor. 

Teams compete in the spring at regional AIChE conferences in order to qualify for the national competition in the fall. Auburn's team has qualified for nationals in 5 of the past 6 years. At the regional competition in spring of 2010, the AU team placed 5th in one of the most competitive conferences in the nation, qualifying them for nationals this past fall where they placed 15th of 34 teams-their highest national finish ever. 

AIChE is the world's leading organization for chemical engineering professionals, with more than 40,000 members from 93 countries.

Last Updated: Apr 06, 2011