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Attracting High School Students To Engineering By Adapting A National Collegiate Competition

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Engineering in High School

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.238.1 - 10.238.7



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Paper Authors

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Christi Luks

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Laura Ford

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Attracting High School Students to Engineering by Adapting a National Collegiate Competition

Laura P. Ford, Christi L. Patton University of Tulsa


We have modified the Chem-E-Car Competition held by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers at regional and national collegiate conferences and invited local high schools to compete. Our goal is to interest high school students in chemical engineering. We will hold our third High School Chem-E-Car Competition in April 2005.

Recruiting results from the first and second years will be presented in the paper with third year data added for the oral presentation. We are targeting chemistry and engineering classes. We hope to catch students in their junior years, before they have decided what college to attend. The junior- and senior-level participants will be examined for application to the University of Tulsa, as engineering majors and particularly as chemical engineering majors. The students will also be surveyed for future plans, specifically their chosen universities and majors. The effectiveness of the competition as a recruiting tool will be evaluated.


We have taken a national collegiate competition offered by a professional society and modified it for use at the University of Tulsa (TU) as a recruiting tool for chemical engineering. The national competition is the Chem-E-Car Competition sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). The rules of their competition are available at their website1. The students design and build a shoebox-sized car that is powered by a chemical reaction. The car must be able to carry a range of water loads and travel a range of distances. Poster presentations are included in the competition to ensure that safety concerns are met and that the cars meet the regulations. The water load and target distance are announced just one hour before the race. The goal is to be the closest to the target distance while carrying the designated water load. The competition has been going for six years at both the national and regional level. The national competition is quite stiff with the winning cars often landing within a foot of the approximately 90-ft target distance.

We simplified the AIChE competition for our high school competition2. Changes were made mostly to minimize the mechanical aspects of the competition and to enable us to hold the competition in our college’s building. Significant changes are: • smaller maximum car size • shorter target distance • no water load • commercial batteries as power supply

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Luks, C., & Ford, L. (2005, June), Attracting High School Students To Engineering By Adapting A National Collegiate Competition Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14189

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