National chemical engineering JEOPARDY! challenges students

Contact: Cindy Wagner

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Becoming an engineer requires diligence and perseverance … and a lot of studying. But it isn’t only calculations, reading and lab work. Sometimes, it’s all about fun and games.

At least that’s the experience of one group of Western Michigan University engineering students who, after success at a regional competition, traveled to Boston for final jeopardy … well, technically, the 2021 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Conference, which hosts a Jeopardy-type event for university students each year.

The 2021 team included Maria Araujo, Sarah Beasley, Zachary Hansen, Andy Kaczmar, Chase Roberts, Chris Rohen, Derek Ronayne and Willis Seifert, all chemical engineering students in Western’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Eliza Vanzweden, who graduated this past summer, also participated.

The group prepared for the event by reviewing the books and materials used in their coursework—studying together and independently. While it was quite a challenge preparing for a broad range of topics, Rohen says the team was comprised of members proficient in different categories of chemical engineering.

Securing their ticket to Boston came down to one question during the regional competition that really excited the group.

“The most important question for us was the final jeopardy,” says team captain Chris Rohen. “We were shown a graph and asked us to name the correlation—and we did. The Gilliland Correlation—something we learned about in our mass transfer course and reviewed in plant economics.”

That correct answer put the team in first place, earning them a trip to the conference and a spot in the national Jeopardy round.

In the national round, the questions were even tougher. “One that stands out to me was: How many neutrons are in Chlorine 37? The answer was 20. And the USC team knew it!” says Hansen.

The team made the most of the opportunity to attend the conference in Boston and participate in the national chemical engineering competition. And while the team didn’t make it to the final round in Boston, the experience made the trip unforgettable.

“My favorite take away from the competition and the conference as a whole is being able to meet so many students from different universities,” says Rohen.

Hansen agrees. “It was an intense competition, and all the competitors were really humble and excited,” he says. “It was a great experience.”

Learn more about the Western chapter of American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.