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Cornell University ChemE Car is a project team in which students of all majors work together to build several model cars purely powered and stopped by chemical reactions. After months of design, construction and careful calibrations, we compete each spring at the AlChE Northeast Regional Conference. If you have any questions about the team, including media inquiries and applications, feel free to contact us at                               Notifications:

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Who are we?

Cornell ChemE Car is a happy family housed in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering but open to anyone who wants to join. Below, we detail some general information about the team and the competition. For our contact information, please scroll towards the bottom of this page.

Team history

Lying around the car team lab are the remnants of cars past. Based on extensive archeological work, we have hypothesized the following: At one time, there was a car powered by some sort of homemade battery. It used two sewing boxes to separate multiple cells (~16). Copper wire was involved (maybe as the anode? cathode?). The power generated by these batteries was then used to drive an electric motor (specifications unknown). The chassis was built of wood, and rollerblade wheels were used. We found what we believe to be the remains of some sort of air-motor powered car. However, the few fragments remaining make it difficult to guess as to the design and function of the car. There exists the body of some sort of remote control car. It has a neat suspension system which, we hypothesize, allowed it to travel over bumps with relative ease. Little else is known about the car.

What is ChemE Car?

ChemE Car is an annual competition sponsored by American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AlChE). The goal of the competition is to build a chemically-powered car (roughly the size of a shoebox) which can travel 50-100 ft while carrying a water payload of 0-500 mL. Each spring, AIChE holds nine regional conferences. The top three winners move on to compete in the national competition held in the Fall. Cornell competes in the Northeast region against RPI, Northeastern University, University of Maine, etc.

How does the competition work?

For a comprehensive explanation of the competition rules, please refer you to AIChE's official competition rules. The main rules are highlighted below:

Let's begin with the physical constraints of the car.

When disassembled, the car must be able to fit into a 40 cm by 30 cm by 18 cm box. It must be capable of safely holding up to 500 mL of water.

In addition, the car must be powered by chemical reactions only, and should cost no more than $2,000. Kits (a common fuel cell car) cannot be used without extensive modification and commercial batteries are not allowed. More importantly, the car cannot have any brakes or other mechanical/electronic stopping devices. There will be a poster session prior to each competition and a panel of judges will inspect the car. Safety is the primary concern of these inspections, but there will be opportunities to discuss novel design features of the car, environmental and safety features, etc. Teams must score at least 70 out of 100 in the poster session to be allowed to race.


The competition is held on a course which can be anywhere from 50 to 100 feet in length. At the beginning of the competition, the judges will announce the distance and water payload (0-500 mL). There are two rounds in the competition. The order of the first race is determined by teams' score during the poster session. The order of the second round is determined by performance during the first round. The higher your score in the first round (that is, the closer you are to the target line), the later in round two you will go. An extremely important rule during the race is as follows: when the announcer calls start, a car must start moving, traverse the distance, and come to a complete stop within two minutes. This rule has been the bane of many excellent cars, which just kept going, and going, and going, and going... A word on safety: in recent years, due to some publicized accidents, AIChE has made safety the prime focus of the competition. Each team is required to submit a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) months ahead of the competition, detailing the safety aspects of the car. Also, almost all car disqualifications at the competitions are due to safety violations. Take safety seriously.

Weekly Meetings

During the 2012-13 academic year, the team will meet on Wednesdays at 5:00 P.M. in Olin Hall, Room 255. Each sub-team will hold weekly meetings at different times throughout the week (contact the corresponding sub-team leaders for the time and location). Anyone is welcome to attend these meetings.


Our advisor is Prof. Roseanna Zia. We would also like to recognize some of the other contributors to the team:
Professor T. Michael Duncan, for use of his lab space
Professor Lynden Archer, the William C. Hooey Director of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, for his enthusiasm and support
Professor Paulette Clancy, the preceding William C. Hooey Director of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, for her continued support of the car team
Glenn Swan, for his continued help with fabrication and all things machine shop-related

Contact Information

If you have any questions about the car team, please send an email to Also, you are welcome to stop by weekly team meetings (they can be quite enjoyable). If you see the captains or any of the other team members in Olin Hall, feel free to stop them and talk about any questions/concerns you may have.

Fuel Cell
I am currently majoring in
and am interested in

Suggested Subteams:


Team Bios

Junior Captain

Dan likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. From Monmouth County, New Jersey, he is currently a sophomore in chemical engineering. Dan is also involved with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, enjoys watching football (go Giants!) and playing computer games.


Alexandra “Allee” Vito is a sophomore chemical engineering student. She is from a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. When she is not acting as the Pressure Team Lead, she enjoys leading the Engineers for a Sustainable World Biofuels Team and is a sister of Kappa Delta Sorority. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family and watching Netflix.


Christine Codignotto is currently a junior studying Chemical Engineering. This is her third semester working with the ChemE Car team and her first semester as the Safety Sub-Team leader. Since joining the team she has completed several training courses to ensure that our team and lab are operating safely without any OSHA, Cornell University, and AIChE policy violations. She is currently working to prepare the Engineering Documentation Package for our National Competition and hopes to have new volunteers join the Safety Sub-Team soon.


Hi! My name is Ray Zhuang, and I am a junior double majoring in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science. I have been on the Chemical Engineering Car Project Team since my very first semester here at Cornell, and have attended 2 regional competitions and 1 national competitions (in which we placed first!). When I am not busy attending calibration hours or completing problem sets and projects for my classes, I like to play chess, go running and swimming, play board games, and cook.


Hailing from New York City, Abdullah Sayeem is currently a junior studying Mechanical Engineering. He has been part of ChemE Car and the Mechanical team since Fall 2012 and has been part of three award-winning cars. Besides ChemE Car, Abdullah has professional experience from research labs and engineering internships. Outside the lab, Abdullah enjoys watching films, playing basketball and long walks on the beach.


Steven is a computer science major from a small suburb of Chicago. He joined ChemE Car his freshman year and attended nationals to assist the fuel cell car in its 3rd place at the regionals conference. In high school he founded Investment Club and DJed a radio show. In his spare time he enjoys coding, investing and snowboarding.

Bio Team

Tim Abbott is a senior Chemical Engineer, minoring in Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science. This is his fourth semester on Cornell's ChemE Car team and his first as the Biological Systems Sub-team leader. This past summer he was an intern at Genentech Inc. where he helped to measure the effects that certain culture parameters had on culture performance in the E. coli fermentation process. In addition to ChemE Car, Tim has also been a member of Cornell's iGEM team for four semesters where he works as a wet lab member to construct genetically modified organisms to solve world-wide problems. He has also been an undergraduate researcher in the Lucks Lab for five semesters where he is helping to develop a protocol for measuring RNA structure and function in the cellular environment.


Charles Wan is currently a sophomore studying chemical engineering. This is his third semester on the ChemE Car team, and first as Battery sub-team leader. He participated in last year’s regionals conference, in which Battery placed 1st. His professional experience includes an internship at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester and research involving the solubility of ionic liquids that serve as battery electrolytes. In his spare time, he likes to play guitar, baseball, basketball, watch TV shows, and not do cardio.


Alex Warman is a Junior studying Chemical Engineering. He has been on the team since his second semester of Freshman year. Alex is also involved with APO, the service fraternity on campus, likes to run, and is a huge sports fan.


Christine is a junior studying electrical and computer engineering major. Besides playing with breadboards and microcontrollers, she absolutely loves animals and likes to run around campus and rock climb as well as go squirrel watching with the Squirrel Club around campus.

Fuel Cell

Mike Kemp is just another ordinary ChemE trying to make it in this tough world. He has been a member of the fuel cell subteam since freshman year and enjoys technical, hands-on work. Outside of ChemE related work, he is involved in the taekwondo club, Cru, and peer advising. He also loves to play guitar and piano in his rare moments of free time.

Benefits of Sponsorship

The Cornell ChemE Car Team has high visibility in the chemical engineering domain due to our appearances and achievements in the regional, national and international competitions. We can harness this visibility to promote your company at the competitions as well as in Cornell University. We have received extensive coverage in AIChEs Chemical Engineering Progress (AIChE CEP) magazine and were featured on AIChEs ChEnected website for chemical engineering professionals. Cornell-based publications like the Cornell Chronicle and the Cornell Daily Sun have also drawn attention to our victories. Your honored sponsorship would increase the exposure your company has, which could translate into greater recruitment opportunities. In our sponsorship packet you will find detailed information about the Team and how sponsors can receive the maximum benefits and exposures.

Interested in Sponsoring Us?

The Cornell ChemE Car Team earnestly seeks your sponsorship. While Cornell College of Engineering and the Cornell Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department have been supporting our team, we require monetary resources and donations in kind from sponsors to larger advances in car design and power generation. The Cornell ChemE Car Team has big dreams for the future. If you are interested in supporting our team, please click here to download our Sponsorship Packet.


Air Products

General Motors


Merck & Co. Inc.

College of Engineering


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