You Can Help Our Chem-E Car, Testudo Mobile, Get Competition-Ready!

Chem-E Car Team

Team Thirsty Turtles’ current lineup. Front Row (L-R): Kelsey Franey, Amanda Merlock, Katie Pohida. Middle Row (L-R): Richard Graver, Brandon Hurn, Kyle Ludwig. Top Row (L-R): Mark Adams, David Shoemaker, Isaac Zaydens. Not pictured: Josh Condon, Sarah De Leon (ECE), and Ben Gelinas. The team is advised by Associate Professor Chunsheng Wang.

After introducing a new car and overcoming a course hazard at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ mid-Atlantic Chem-E Car Competition, the University of Maryland's Team Thirsty Turtles is preparing for the nationals, to be held at AIChE’s annual meeting this fall in Atlanta. Launch UMD, a new crowdfunding program, wants to help them get there.

While the team is hard at work improving its fourth and newest car, Testudo Mobile, it’s getting a boost in publicity and fundraising assistance from Launch UMD, a selective, Kickstarter-like program dedicated to helping University of Maryland students, faculty and staff pursue their passions.

The team has worked tirelessly to research, design and build the chemical reaction-powered vehicle, which must carry a cargo and travel a specified distance—both of which are only revealed at the competition. Each team must carefully calculate the duration of the reaction required to perform the task, taking variables like weight, mechanical properties, and flooring into account.

Although the team has sponsors, traveling to competitions is a major expense, and members have had to choose who gets to go while still leaving enough in their budget to upgrade Testudo Mobile. Since each one of them specializes in a particular aspect of the car, it’s a strategic advantage to have as many of them in the “pit crew” as possible. Sending even a core team consumes most of the budget, leaving little to use for upgrades based on what they learned from the regionals.

The team explains the competition and what Chem-E Car means to them.

Regardless of these challenges, team member and Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) senior Katie Pohida feels working on Testudo Mobile and its predecessors has been about much more than winning. “Chem-E Car is about forming friendships, communicating with professors, networking with professionals, and learning what it takes to be an engineer in the real world,” she says. “It’s given us the chance to test our knowledge, and the AIChE competitions have given us the opportunity to attend seminars and meet students from around the nation.”

But winning would be nice, Team Leader and ChBE senior Brandon Hurn admits. He believes Testudo Mobile will get the job done at the finals, and hopes working with Launch UMD will improve the team’s chances.“Whether it’s construction materials, drivetrain components, or sending a hardworking student to the conference,” he says, “we will use every donation to help our team win first place, and to do it in style!”

Team Thirsty Turtles’ crowdfunding campaign runs through October 22 at You can support the team at any time by visiting

Learn more about how Testudo Mobile works and the contentious 2014 regional competition at

Published September 23, 2014