McMaster University Chem-E Car Team

About Us

McMaster University’s Chem-E-Car Team has been taking part in the American Institute of Chemical Engineer’s (AIChE) Chem-E Car competition since 2009. The competition and conference, offer students the opportunity to test their engineering skills amongst the top universities in the world. During the National Conference, students network with established industry professionals from across the continent to increase awareness of engineering through the exploration of alternative fuel sources. 

Our Mission

The mission of the McMaster Chem-E-Car team is to provide students the opportunity to stretch their creative bounds and troubleshooting skills, while gaining hands-on knowledge of chemical processes. Members of the team gain experience that are not taught in a traditional class setting. The team also focuses on the safety and environmental aspects of the design, which is a major concern in the engineering and energy industry. Our end goal is to put together a design that will contribute to the energy industry and take us to the National Competition.


The team is split into 4 main sub-teams to work on the car that we will compete with. Each of these sub-teams have a pair of leads that are part of the executive team along side the presidents of the entire team and vice presidents of media and finance as well as several general members who can apply to be a part of the team and contribute to building the car. There is the propulsion sub-team which works on developing a chemical reaction to power the car. We have looked at both hydrogen fuel cells for this purpose in the past as well as developing a Battery Electric Vehicle this year by analyzing the applicability of a Zn-Air battery for this purpose. Next is the Braking sub-team which works on developing a stopping reaction for the car. As the entire car must be powered and stopped by chemical reactions, as per the competition rules, this reaction's progress will be monitored by the car's control system to identify when to stop. We are currently using an exothermic reaction for this purpose and monitoring the temperature. The next sub-team is the mechanical sub-team which works on the main chassis of the car and housing all the necessary components, reaction vessels, and the control system for the car which is developed by the last sub team. Last, but not least, is the circuitry sub-team. This sub-team is responsible for the entire control system and drivetrain for the car. Monitoring the reaction progress, collecting data about the car and its environment, and powering the motors to drive the car for the set distance. This sub-team makes both the circuit designs for the control system and programs the microcontroller that manages the entire setup.

The Current Executive Team

The Previous Year's Executive Team at the 2023 International Competition

The Preivous Year's Car

Lighting MACqueen (A reference to our university and the PIXAR movie Cars)

Chem-E-Car Competition Background

Students of all engineering disciplines from McMaster University form the Chem-E Car Team with a common goal of constructing a controllable car powered by chemical energy sources to compete in the Chem-E-Car Regional Competition. This conference/competition is hosted annually by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). AIChE’s national conference offers attendees the opportunity to network with professionals, learn about new cutting-edge technologies, and expand their knowledge in engineering.

Competition Goal

The competition involves propelling a chemically powered car to a designated finish line as close as possible. The car will be carrying an unknown mass (0-50 mL) of water to an unknown distance (between 50 ft and 100 ft), which will be provided to all teams 1h before the competition. Winners of the regional competition advance to the national conference. Our team won first place in the 2017 North Central Regional Conference with 2 cm off the distance mark and placed 3rd in the 2023 North Central Regionals which qualified us for the International Competition in which we placed 21st globally!

Chem-E Car Team Achievements

Since the founding of the team in 2009, McMaster University’s Chem-E Car Team has attended eight competitions. Seen below are some of our accomplishments.

2023 International Competition:

  • Ranked 21st across the world
  • Ranked 3rd within Canada

2023 North Central Regionals:

  • Placed 3rd in the Main Competition
  • Placed 3rd in the Poster Competition

2017 North Central Regionals:

  • Placed 1rd in the Main Competition
  • Placed 1rd in the Poster Competition

2016 North Central Regionals:

  • Awarded "Most Creative Drive System"
  • Placed 2rd in the Poster Competition

Using PCBs

We are currently in the process of building this year's car and as such, require some sort of a control system. In the past, the circuitry sub-team accomplished this through the use of in-air soldering and jumper wires to connect various pre-fabricated boards to the microcontroller. However, to increase reliability and the overall neatness of the car, we decided to design a fully custom PCB for this year's control system. The microcontroller is socketed on-board and the motor drivers, boost converter ICs, and ports for all the motors, the battery, and datalogging sensors are soldered directly onto the PCB as a sort of sensory and control extension for the microcontroller. This year, we have also included an accelerometer on board to correct for any deviation off the track so that the car continues to go in the right direction with the use of SMD components and building our own PCB. In this manner, we were able to drastically reduce the size of the system, make it much cleaner, and modular with the use of JST connectors and socket for the microcontroller, and in general more reliable. This new system is what we hope to iterate on going forward as a result of the improvements that come from using a custom PCB for this. Having designed our PCB in Altium Designer with a student license, below is a 3D render of our design.

This Year's PCB Design

Contribution through Sponsorship

We would greatly appreciate the support of PCBWay in our efforts to revoloutionize our car's control system from past years and our endeavours as aspiring engineers with members from across all the various disciplines. Through PCBWay's support we hope to gain access to their resources with rapid PCB prototyping and assembly and continue to improve upon this control system design for years to come even as the propulsion and braking reactions change. Moreover, with the aid of PCBWay's support, we would be able to rapidly prototype and further develop and improve this PCB even for this year's competition as we learn more and explore this relatively uncharted territory for our team. We would love to invite PCBWay to be a part of our team in this manner and and share in our journey to make a difference in this world by looking into renewable alternatives for our gasoline-powered cars as well as be promoted by our team within the competition and on our website and socials. As such, we kindly request PCBWay's sponsorship of our team of students in their pursuit of knowledge and bettering the world. We would like to thank you for considering this oppertunity as a team and hope we can collaborate with you further and achieve all of our goals through this arrangement!

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Feb 02,2024
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