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Chemically Powered Toy Cars: A Way To Interest High School Students In A Chemical Engineering Career

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Recruitment & Outreach in CHE

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.294.1 - 8.294.7



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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

Session 2213

Chemically Powered Toy Cars: A Way to Interest High School Students in a Chemical Engineering Career

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


College recruiting events can be disheartening for chemical engineering faculty. Large numbers of students wait to talk to the science faculty about majoring in Chemistry, while very few consider Chemical Engineering other than as a respite from the crowds. Those few that stop to visit have one question: What is chemical engineering? Visiting with high school chemistry teachers, one realizes that their teachers are equally baffled by chemical engineering. If chemical engineering departments are to attract top students to join their ranks, they must educate the high school teachers as well as their students.

National engineering organizations have long recognized the value of holding competitions for gaining publicity and interesting students.[1] The American Society of Civil Engineers has held the National Concrete Canoe Competition since 1988. Regional competitions have been held for forty years. The International Society of Automotive Engineers began their best known competition, the Mini Baja, in 1976 and currently hosts six different competitions each year. In recent years, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) has initiated a Chem-E-Car competition that has been very well received.[2] Student teams build shoebox-sized cars which must carry a variable load of water and travel a distance that may vary between 15 and 30 m. This contest was duplicated in Australia at the World Congress of Chemical Engineering.[3] Many schools, including the University of Nevada at Reno and The University of Tulsa, have used a variation on this competition to improve student retention.[4]

At The University of Tulsa, the faculty recently initiated a new program designed to introduce chemical engineering to high school chemistry classes. Chemistry teachers and science club advisors in the Tulsa area were invited to enter teams to compete in a chemical- powered car competition, a modification of the AIChE Chem-E-Car Competition. The Tulsa Competition appealed to the chemistry teachers that entered teams because their students could apply the chemistry they have learned while requiring little mechanical expertise on the part of the teacher. The event was held on The University of Tulsa campus with judging provided by students and local industrial representatives. An informal atmosphere allowed the high-school students to interact with practicing engineers and college-level engineering students while they learned more about the university and chemical engineering as a career.


“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Luks, C., & Ford, L. (2003, June), Chemically Powered Toy Cars: A Way To Interest High School Students In A Chemical Engineering Career Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12460

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