HOUSTON, May 06, 2004 - Racecars and robots are roaming the halls of the Cullen College of Engineering at the University of Houston.
Burning rubber and a roaring crowd are all part of racecar driving. While there is no pit crew for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) ChemE Car Competition, the excitement was still there for Mansour AbdulBaki and Adrian Morales, chemical engineering juniors and the first UH students to ever enter the competition. They competed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, capturing a second-place finish and hoping for a trip to the national competition to take place at the 2004 AIChE Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, this fall. Spending the better part of a year constructing a miniature car that draws its energy from a chemical reaction, competitors were required to build a vehicle that carries a predetermined weight over a particular distance before coming to a stop. AbdulBaki and Morales' car obtained its energy from a fuel cell reaction, making it more environmentally friendly.
"We start with distilled water and then place a solar panel on top of a projector, because solar intensity is not always constant, especially in Houston," Morales said. "The energy obtained from this is used to electrolyze water to split it into hydrogen and oxygen. When we're done, we have a certain amount of hydrogen for how far we think it's going to run. Then we hook up the motor and let the hydrogen and oxygen combine again, so our only waste product is water."
By initiating UH involvement with this competition, AbdulBaki and Morales are attempting to effect change at the local level and within the university by enticing more chemical engineering majors to become involved with AIChE. AbdulBaki served as the organization's president last term, and Morales is the current vice president.
"We're trying to get AIChE more involved on campus and at the national level and make this competition an annual thing," AbdulBaki said. "We want new people to take the idea and go to nationals to show that we're out there."
In other prize-winning news, the student branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) at UH received top billing at the recent IEEE Region Five Conference, garnering seven awards. In addition to UH receiving the honor of Best Large Student Branch, the robotics contest proved particularly fruitful with all three UH teams earning a place in the finals. With 28 teams competing and only six advancing, UH teams took second, fourth and sixth place. George Abinader, German Colin, Nathan Howard and Eduardo Villareal captured the second-place award, with Cherrylyn Aranas, Michel Ho, Pavlos Georgas and Tommy Dufour finishing in fourth and Blanca Padilla, Hung Huynh, Steve Kenessey and Ben Magwe claiming sixth.
"I think this is really important for the entire UH community," said David Shattuck, former IEEE advisor and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. "I've always been told that this is one of the few colleges of engineering that devotes actual space to student organizations, which is a key issue for us. They give the commuting students a sense of community here on campus."
Shattuck received the Outstanding Engineering Educator award. Ovidiu Crisan, professor of electrical and computer engineering, was recognized as Outstanding Branch Counselor, and Nnamdi Bnabuihe rounded out the winner's circle with the Outstanding Student award.
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About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.
About the Cullen College of Engineering
UH Cullen College of Engineering has produced five U.S. astronauts, ten members of the National Academy of Engineering, and degree programs that have ranked in the top ten nationally. With more than 2,200 students, the college offers accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemical, civil and environmental, electrical and computer, industrial, and mechanical engineering. It also offers specialized programs in aerospace, biomedical, materials, petroleum engineering and telecommunications.
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