As a freshman I joined a club known as the Chemical Engineering Car Team. For years this club had existed, but year-after-year each team had no success. For the competition each team must create a small car that is moved as well as stopped solely by a chemical reaction. It’s a tough task, and every year before this year the Hopkins team never really got it together.
It’s a challenge not because of the lack on intellect on behalf of Hopkins students, but the countless hours spent designing, testing, and constantly struggling when things randomly go wrong. Since my freshmen year it has been my goal to see this team go to Nationals, and this year we finally did it!
This past fall the department was generous enough to create a course for the team, so each week we met in small groups, where we designed and tested ideas. After nearly a semester of testing and designing, we chose the best of our ideas and implemented them on a car. This semester we spent constantly testing and modifying our car. Near the end I think I was spending nearly 20 hours a week working with others on the car, which is far more time than I spend on any homework assignment or other club.
Last weekend, the entire headed to Hoboken, New Jersey for the competition. On the competition day, just an hour before the start the teams are notified of a distance the cars are required to travel, as well as a weight. Then you have to prepare your reactions accordingly, and get your car to stop closest to the line. The competition was intense, if you can believe it or not. There was a lot of pressure as well as unpredictability. As the main person in charge of the stopping reaction, I was pipetting nearly nonstop for two hours. In the end, we place third overall and secured our spot in Nationals. It was really one of the coolest moments I have experienced as a Hopkins student. I have watched this team struggle and fail for years due to poor organization and leadership, and this year we really pulled it together. We proved to our department that we can do it, and not to lose faith in the club. I am so eager to see what this has in stores for the ChemBE’s after me who chose to join, and I hope that this set precedent that we are a nationally competitive team.
It was my dream as a freshman to see this club make it to nationals, and this year all I wanted to was to make it to Nationals for my senior year. In college, you will experience a lot of let downs, and you might not achieve lots of your goals or get what you want. This was one of those moments I saw all my hard work and dedication for a tiny little car smaller than a square foot mean something. It was hard not to get emotional when that car stopped so close to the line. I am so proud I was a part of the very first Johns Hopkins ChemE Car Team to make it to Nationals, and I hope this time won’t be the last.