Lean back, close your eyes and imagine: several hundred men and women, many middle-aged to very experienced professionals, well-clad with ties and smart blouses are frenetically cheering and biting their nails as some strange vehicle – or is it even a vehicle? – rolls, crawls or creeps toward the finishing line. Open your eyes – this setting is perfectly normal for the annual ChemCar competition. For four years now it has been one of the highlights of ProcessNet’s Annual Meeting, and its 5th edition will certainly stand out from the scientific programme at this year’s European Congress of Chemical Engineering.
What is it all about? The task sounds simple enough: Construct a vehicle, about the size of a shoe box, that is driven by a chemical reaction. This device should run a distance and carry an additional load that are defined an hour before the competition starts. The vehicle that meets the distance most exactly – without using brakes! – wins the contest.
What sounds easy is, in fact, a major challenge for the teams of students that work often for several months on the concept and its implementation. Chemists and chemical engineers work hand in hand, sponsors are involved, and some professors accept these projects as a practical part of studies. The winners take it all: the experience of interdisciplinary teamwork, the satisfaction of having mastered a demanding scientific and technological task, and the prize money of … – and, of course, the cheers and applause of an expert audience.