June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Energy Conversion and Conservation
22.294.1 - 22.294.11
Linking Undergraduates and High Schools Seniors in Sustainability Education through a Biofuel Research Project Jeffrey Seay, Wesley Whipple and Torey Earle Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Kentucky, Paducah, Kentucky Abstract This contribution will outline the details of a project to introduce high school seniors and undergraduate students to the principles of sustainability and renewable energy through participation in a multidisciplinary outreach project to manufacture biodiesel using waste vegetable oil and convert the glycerol side product to marketable specialty chemical products. The high school seniors participating in the project conduct their research at the Paducah Extended Campus of the University of Kentucky where they work with undergraduate researchers in chemical and mechanical engineering to operate a small scale biodiesel plant and glycerol conversion reactor. In addition, the students operate a quality control laboratory and conduct research experiments designed to improve the biodiesel manufacturing process and develop processes for optimizing the process for utilizing the glycerol side product. The waste vegetable oil used as the feed stock for the biodiesel plant comes from the high school cafeteria and local restaurants and the fuel produced will be used to power a heater in a student run greenhouse on the high school campus. As part of the research experience, the students explore both the economic and environmental impacts of this renewable fuel process. Beyond the technical goals of the research, this project has specific outcomes: Introducing the high school and undergraduate students to the concept of sustainability and sustainable process design Raising the student’s awareness of design engineering and introducing them to the tools and methods used by engineers in solving design problems. The high school student’s knowledge and opinions towards sustainability and environmental issues and their knowledge of the chemical engineering profession will be assessed before and after participation by use of a survey. The purpose of the survey is to gauge the changes in the student’s attitudes and opinions based on their participation. The results of this survey as well as the anecdotal reports from the participating students will be presented in this contribution. Finally, some of the specific challenges involved in including high school students active research projects will be addressed. This work is funded in part by a People, Prosperity and the Planet design competition project grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
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