Engineering team wins big at competition

The UNA Autonomous Vehicle Team qualified for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers car competition nationals at their first competition April 1 at the University of Tennessee.

The team placed fourth out of 16 teams representing various universities from across the Southern U.S. UNA was the highest ranking team from Alabama, including in-state rival Alabama-Huntsville.

“We beat a lot of schools who have been doing this for a lot more than one year,” said team leader Caleb Beck. “We beat UAH. That is one I am definitely proud of.”

The competition engages students by having them design and construct a car powered by a chemical energy source. The car has to carry a specific amount of weight over a given distance and stop accurately, according to

The vehicle must use a chemical reaction to start and stop at a given distance. The teams are given the distance the vehicle must travel minutes before the competition begins.

The team qualified to go to the national AIChE Competition in Minneapolis in October.

“To be able to successfully compete with prestigious universities such as Georgia Tech and the University of Alabama at Huntsville makes us especially proud of our students’ achievements,” said Department Chair of Engineering Technology Peter Rim.

The purpose of the competition is to test a student’s ability to design a vehicle capable of precisely controlling its’ motion without the aid of a remote control system.

Beck said the competition challenged the students to use multiple aspects of engineering, such as chemical, mechanical, electrical and process engineering.

Beck also said he is impressed by the level of interest in this first year team. Four students went to the competition, but others helped with the project.

The UNA College of Arts and Sciences provided the startup costs to the team, according to the announcement.

The team is working to tweak the machine in preparations for the next competition. They are searching for potential corporate sponsorships to fund their trip to compete at the national competition.