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Nebraska Chemical Engineering students win AIChE 2011 national Jeopardy championship

AIChE 2011 national Jeopardy champions, UNL team“Nebraska” is the answer to the question: “Which team won the Jeopardy competition at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ 2011 Student Conference?”

The conference, Oct. 14-17 at the University of Minnesota, gathered AIChE members from top universities. While not as formal as the presentations of research that draw many to the event, the Jeopardy activity is highly competitive, according to UNL CHME student Aldo Martinez.

“We try not to take it too seriously, but we do prepare for it,” said Martinez. The Nebraska Engineering team had won the Jeopardy event at the AIChE regional competition last spring, which earned them an invitation to the national championship.

The Nebraska team included Ben Price, Taylor Laughlin, Devor O’Connor, Mike Taylor, Jessica Duff and Mike Gottrick. The Huskers had a strong presence at the event, with four other students from UNL’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering cheering on the Big Red team.

Among nine teams competing, UNL entered the finals against Stevens Institute of Technology and hometown favorite, the University of Minnesota. Approaching the last few questions, UNL was 80 points ahead, making it hard for the other teams to catch them.

Martinez described the winning strategy: “We built a good lead and then just tried not to lose points.”

Question categories included Material/Energy Balances, Fluids, Heat/Mass Transfer, Thermodynamics, Separations, Reaction Engineering, Process Control, Materials and Chemistry. The UNL team thought the “grab bag” category was actually the most difficult, with its references to AIChE history, Martinez added.

He said the CHME students representing UNL were volunteers “who want to play and who work well under pressure.” What did Nebraska take home from the event as a trophy? Martinez replied, “It's all about the bragging rights.”

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