NU SEDS's Chem-E-Car Team Shines Bright at AIChE Asia Pacific Region Competition

The Chem-E-Car project named "Qarlygash," crafted by students from NU SEDS's Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, recently earned recognition at the Chem-E-Car Competition during the Student Regional Conference held from August 18 to August 20, 2023, at the Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology (India). Their performance resulted in securing first prize in the poster sessions and third place in the demonstration round, surpassing competitors from 46 countries across the Asia Pacific Region.

Chem-E-Car Competition, organized by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), challenges college students to design and construct a vehicle powered by a chemical energy source. The primary goal is to create a car capable of safely traveling a predetermined distance and coming to a complete stop using this energy. The competition involves multiple regional contests, culminating in a final event at the Annual Student Conference.

Following this achievement, we had the opportunity to delve deeper into the story behind this success with Alibi Namazbay, the Head of AIChE NU Student Chapter, to understand the team's inspiration, challenges, and unique innovations that set their Chem-E-Car apart.

Can you introduce your team and tell us about your roles and responsibilities in the Chem-E-car project?

Our team is divided into four departments: Battery, Chemical Reaction, Arduino, and Design. Each department is led by its own head. In total, our team comprises 11 individuals, including the team leader. The Battery department focuses on building the battery, while the Chemical Reaction department selects suitable reactions and conducts experiments. The Arduino department handles coding and connecting the battery to the chemical reactions. Lastly, the Design department takes charge of designing the car and creating the poster.

What inspired your team to create the Chem-E-car, and what was the main goal behind this project?

The Chem-E-Car Competition, an annual event organized by AIChE, serves as a platform for college students specializing in Chemical Engineering. While AIChE and the field of chemical engineering are relatively less recognized in Kazakhstan, our aspiration was to ignite a pioneering movement to foster awareness of our country in the international chemical engineering community by demonstrating our competitiveness, competence, and exceptional preparation. Through our achievements, we believe that we will pave the way for enduring connections with student chapters from countries with well-established chemical engineering disciplines. By demonstrating our students' active engagement in such competitions and their parity with counterparts from accomplished student chapters worldwide, we embark on an auspicious journey to shape the forthcoming strong generation of our chemical engineers.

How long did it take for your team to design and build the Chem-E-Car from concept to completion?

Remarkably, the construction of the car itself took only a mere month and a half, dedicating another two weeks to thoroughly test its performance. Surprisingly, our team managed to complete the car within this relatively short timeframe, made possible by the diligent commitment of our dedicated members.

What are the unique features or innovations in your Chem-E-Car that set it apart from other similar projects?

The most distinguishing feature of our car was definitely the design. A lot of thought was put into it, considering how to place all the necessary components of the circuit, the battery, and the vessel with the chemical reaction to optimize their functionality and aesthetics. The car consisted of two platforms, with the majority of components on the first platform and the reaction on the second platform. The interesting part starts with covering the reaction: the sensor reading the color of the reaction was sensitive to light, so we covered it with a black box, adding wings for design. It was further connected to the name of the car - Qarlygash, with a wordplay containing the word “car” in pronunciation. The wings were designed after a martin bird. Another unique feature was in the usage of the battery, which was made in our laboratory by our Battery department. While other teams fully relied on the chemical reaction as both starting and stopping mechanisms, we separated these. We used the battery to power the car’s propulsion system and the chemical reaction as an indicator of when to stop. The chemical reaction was observed using sensors and an Arduino board. Another unique feature was the usage of a gyroscope. One of the problems we encountered from the beginning was deviation in the car’s movement from a straight line, so we used the gyroscope to read the deviation and control the speed of the wheels separately to straighten the car’s movement. Additionally, the duration spent on our car was unique, as other teams had spent around 6 months on their projects compared to the 2 months in our case.

What were your expectations and goals for this competition?

To be honest, we didn't set very high hopes for this competition initially. Our goal was simply to join the competition and showcase our car. However, beyond our imagination, we secured 1st place in the poster session and achieved 3rd place in the main competition. This achievement feels truly remarkable, especially considering that Nazarbayev University has participated in the AIChE Asia Pacific Conference just twice.