UF AIChE Student Chapter Hosts the Southern Student Regional Conference

Written by Flynn Baliton and Violet Warren

The University of Florida American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) student chapter recently hosted the first fully in-person AIChE Southern Student Regional Conference (ASRC) since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Chemical engineering students throughout the southern region came together to participate in various networking opportunities, industry events, skills-building workshops, and competitions on March 3-4, 2023.

The two-day event saw participants from 29 universities, five engineering companies, members of National AIChE’s Executive Board, and other professionals in chemical engineering. Attendees showcased their skills and knowledge, while also learning from industry leaders and exploring career opportunities.

The UF AIChE chapter worked diligently to make this conference possible for students in the Southern Region.

Chem-E-Car Competition

One of the main events, and usually the most anticipated event for spectators, is the Chem-E-Car Competition. Chem-E-Car provides students with a unique opportunity to apply their knowledge in a collaborative and innovative setting. This competition consists of teams designing a car that functions using a power and stopping mechanism that operates based on chemical reactions. The car must travel a specified distance and stop without surpassing the finish line during competition or veering off to the sides. Scoring is based on the stopped car’s distance to the finish line, taking the best distance of two runs. This year, 14 teams participated.

The University of Kentucky took first place as their car came to a stop within only 3 centimeters of the finish line. Second place was won by Auburn University with 72.4 centimeters. UF took third place with 82 centimeters, followed by the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez in fourth place, and the University of Alabama, Huntsville in fifth place. The top five teams advance to the National Student Conference in November this year.

ChemE Jeopardy Competition

The annual Jeopardy competition took place on both days and included Preliminary, Semi-Final and Final rounds. A total of 13 teams participated in the Jeopardy competition this year. The competition is a Jeopardy game, utilizing chemical engineering coursework as the basis for most questions. Three teams, consisting of a maximum of four students, face off to earn points by giving correct answers to questions from a variety of categories.

As Georgia Institute of Technology won the competition at the last regional conference, their team bypassed the Preliminary Round and automatically advanced to Semi-Finals. After teams competed on March 3, the three teams to advance to the Finals the next day  were Georgia Institute of Technology, Auburn University, and Mississippi State University. The teams were quite knowledgeable on the topics, resulting in a tiebreaker needed between Georgia Institute of Technology and Auburn University.

Georgia Institute of Technology won first place and will advance to the National Student Conference.

Poster Competition

The conference includes a Poster Competition for individual students to present a poster about their undergraduate research. This year, the Poster Competition included a high number of presenters with 44 posters in the following categories:

  • Fuels, Petrochemicals, and Energy
  • Materials Engineering and Sciences
  • Separations
  • Catalysis and Reaction Engineering
  • Computing, Simulation, and Process Control
  • Environmental Science and Engineering
  • Food, Pharmaceuticals, and Biotechnology

Each poster is judged by three AIChE professionals in industry or academia based on criteria pertaining to the poster’s visuals, the presenter’s verbal presentation, competence of research and analysis, and presenters’ answers to questions.

Micah Dickens from the University of South Alabama earned first place for his poster on Understanding the Effect of Alkali Metal Addition on the Electrochemical Upgrade of MEA-Captured CO2. Danielle Flores from the University of South Alabama won second place for her poster on Thermal Stability of Novel Ionic Liquids for High Temperature Applications. Sasha Bronovitskiy from the Georgia Institute of Technology won third place for her poster on Cell Free Protein Synthesis Using Linear Expression Templates.

Plant Tour, Recruitment Fair, and More

The ASRC fostered an environment for students to learn more about the field of chemical engineering and provided them with valuable experiences. A plant tour was held at the Milliken SiVance Plant in Gainesville, Fla., and showed students how chemical engineering concepts are applied in an industrial environment.

On the second day of the conference, UF hosted a Recruiting Fair with seven graduate schools and four industry companies. FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, University of Alabama, UF, University of Kentucky, University of South Florida, University of Tennessee, and University of Virginia, as well as Ascend Performance Materials, Kraton, Intel, and Mosaic’s participation inspired undergraduate students with opportunities for professional growth.

Other events included a Diversity and Inclusion seminar, and a resume and interview workshop, which provided attendees with professional growth.

The 2024 ASRC will be held at Auburn University.