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Texas A&M at Qatar students place third in international contest

Published Oct 18, 2017

A group of students from Texas A&M at Qatar placed third in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE) Chem-E-Car world competition at the 10th World Congress of Chemical Engineering in Barcelona, Spain, 1-5 Oct. 

This is Texas A&M at Qatar’s highest achieved rank in the competition and builds on last year’s fifth-place finish.

The competition required students to build a race car fueled only by a chemical reaction. The twist of the competition was not knowing the distance the car would need to travel nor the load it needed to carry until an hour before the race. Team members Abdullah Shaat, Ali Al-Ansari, Arshad Ali, Laya Roustazadeh, Safiya Jan, Seif Elgazar, Taha Kubbar and captain Zeinab Ataya successfully calibrated the car’s chemical reaction to meet the requirements and win third place. Dr. Ghada Salama, their chapter adviser, expressed her pride in their dedication, hard work and quick problem-solving skills.

The building of the car took seven months and the students gave up holidays and vacations to have the car ready for the race. 

Elgazar said, “The experience was definitely unforgettable. It was full of excitement, hardships, heat-of-the-moment arguments, but most importantly, knowledge.”

Brainstorming about what type of battery to use and the stopping mechanism began in March where they had to prepare the safety documents and get approval from the university’s safety department followed by testing the battery and the stopping mechanism, as well as designing and building of the chassis.

The team faced an unexpected challenge when they were provided with a chemical in a solid form rather than the solution form that they had pre-ordered. The team had to use that preparation hour time before the race to solve this problem and prepare this solution.

Jan said, “The moment our car began to move, it felt as if everything we worked for finally paid off.” 

Ali said, “This experience reaffirmed my faith in two things: Murphy’s Law because everything that could go wrong went wrong and human capacity to overcome because we won!”

Texas A&M at Qatar’s team also won the Spirit award for exhibiting the most team spirit and sportsmanship during the race. The rigors of the competition taught the team what it means to work together and the concept of teamwork.

Roustazadeh said, “Now, I know the true meaning of team work and I experienced that the sweetness of success resulting from team work is much more than that of working alone.” 

Kubbar said she found that “working on a project like this helps build team skills as well as bringing you closer to people you would have never expected.”

The Chem-E-Car competition also served another purpose: how to apply what’s learned in the classroom in the real world.

Jan said, “We stay in lectures and labs all day, learning theoretical concepts, but we never get to practice actual engineering. But, being there at the competition, solving the problems that we faced and actually practicing real-life engineering, made me realize that this is truly what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

For team members, the pursuit of the collective goal of winning fostered friendships and memories that will last long after their college years.

Shaat said, “I had fun with my teammates, who are now my friends,” a sentiment echoed by Elgazar, who said, “My teammates were once my friends, but now I consider them to be family.”

Team captain Atayah said, “From the time I yelled at them for being late to lab to the moment the car stopped 27 centimeters away from the finish line, it was a memorable experience with an incredible team.”