Trine teams excel at AIChE Student Conference

November 29, 2022


PHOENIX, Ariz. — Thirteen Trine University students took part in competitions at the annual American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Student Conference, held Nov. 11-14 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Trine’s Chem-E-Car finished fourth in its event, while the ChemE Sports team finished eighth and the university’s ChemE Jeopardy team advanced to the semifinals, which included the top nine teams.

“The teams put in significant time preparing for their competitions, and this dedication resulted in impressive representation of our program and university. We were small but mighty,” said Amanda Malefyt, Ph.D., chair and associate professor in Trine’s McKetta Department of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering.

Making do

Chem-E-Car team members were captain Parker Gillespie of Solsberry, Indiana; David Deniston of Bowling Green, Ohio; Travis Mersing of Swanton, Ohio; Dean Campbell of Batesville, Indiana; Natalie Crowner of Saline, Michigan; Madison Ruen of Antwerp, Ohio; and John McClelland of Oak Forest, Illinois.

In the Chem-E-Car competition, teams must build a car that starts and stops using only chemical reactions. Trine’s team had to make last-minute adjustments to their car, dubbed the “Rolling Thunder,” after discovering the chemicals they needed to power the vehicle had not arrived in Phoenix.

“AIChE had only received about half of the chemicals that all 35 teams had requested,” Gillespie said, noting this issue affected more than half the competitors. ““We did not find out until Saturday afternoon, and the competition was on Sunday.”

The team was able to find a substitute for one of its battery chemicals, and ran experiments to determine another chemical that would provide a functional reaction.

Once the team had the reaction, they had to determine the new speed of the car and best ratio of chemicals while addressing any possible safety concerns.

“Placing fourth was an amazing achievement in general, considering all the challenges we had to overcome just to have a functional car,” Gillespie said.

He said that due to the issue with chemicals, teams that did not finish in the top three will be able to be part of a virtual competition in a couple of weeks.

Industrial simulations

In the Chem Esports competition, teams run a simulation of an industrial process. The event featured a distillation column this year, with teams attempting to correct errors in order to bring the simulation out of alarm state and to continue earning money.

Trine’s team was comprised of Matthew Decker of Bluffton, Indiana; Mutlaq al Mutlaq of Saudi Arabia; and David Deniston.

Trine competed against universities from other nations as well as larger schools including the University of Virginia, Iowa State University, the University of California Irvine, the University of Texas at Austin and Yale University. The team placed fourth in the first round and third in the final round, which earned an Ultimate Controller Award.

Trine was eighth overall.

“With the exception of the second round, in which we were a little slow racking up points in the beginning, we quickly recognized and addressed all the unanticipated failures, and our scores reflected this,” said Decker.

This. Is. Jeopardy.

ChemE Jeopardy covered chemical engineering subjects such as thermodynamics, mass transfer and reaction kinetics. The contest also included general STEM categories such as math, physics and chemistry, and one wild card category in each round such as children's TV, Disney or insects.

Team members Adam Dumas of Wauseon, Ohio, Matthew Decker, David Deniston and Dean Campbell competed against Western Michigan and the University of Southern California in the first round and Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland Baltimore County in the semifinal.

UMBC defeated Trine in that round and went on to win the tournament.

“Even though we didn't win the whole tournament I was very happy with our placement,” said Dumas, the team captain. “We practiced very hard and made it all the way to the semifinals of a national tournament.”

“The support from the department and the other students during the competition in Phoenix was great. I think it shows that great sense of community in the chemical engineering department at Trine.”

Individual awards

Two Trine University chemical engineering students received awards honoring students who stand out in their individual chapters.

Natalie Crowner received the Freshman Recognition Award. The award is presented to one active AIChE undergraduate student member in each student chapter who has been the most active in their chapter during their freshman year, on the recommendation of the student chapter advisor.

Alyssa Keptner of Midland, Michigan, was recognized with the Donald F. Othmer Sophomore Academic Excellence Award. That award is presented to the active AIChE undergraduate member in each student chapter who has attained the highest scholastic grade-point average during their freshman and sophomore years, on recommendation of the student chapter advisor.


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