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Sparta High School’s Biodiesel Club Enjoys Continued Success

Posted Fri, Jun 3rd, 2016 By Gwen Donovan

Sparta High School students from the Biodiesel Club add biodiesel to a truck owned by high school science teacher Andy Bickerton. Left to right: Quinn VanEs, Terry Rippon, Soumya Duggirala and Alex Poret.

In 2012, the Sparta Education Foundation (SEF) funded a grant at Sparta High School to convert cooking oil into biodiesel, a renewable by-product that can be used as an energy source. As a result, students from many different disciplines, including Biology, Chemistry, Engineering and Environmental Science, have participated in the Biodiesel Club, an extension of the Ecology Club. Four students who are driving forces in the club include Quinn VanEs, Terry Rippon, Soumya Duggirala and Alex Poret.

According to Sparta High School science teacher Andy Bickerton, the students have been hands-on throughout the past school year, "By using my background as a research chemist and engineer, the students and I designed and built the process equipment, produced biodiesel, and analyzed the starting raw materials and final product." Each student has learned a tremendous amount about the use, creation and relevance of alternative energy sources in this pioneering program. Unlike fossil fuels such as coal or petroleum, biodiesel is a renewable energy source that can continually be remade. This fuel can run any piece of equipment that uses a diesel motor such as home oil furnaces, diesel vehicles and generators.

Using frying oil donated by the Sparta Bowling Alley, students have been able to power contractor torpedo heaters, a diesel generator, a school bus and school lawn equipment. Glycerin soap, made from a biodiesel-based by product that was also developed by the students, is environmentally friendly and biodegradable. Bickteron has even used it as home heating oil fuel and to power a diesel truck. "I bought a used Sparta Blue diesel truck for the purpose of having the club's biodiesel tried out in it. It has been running on a roughly 20% blend of biodiesel/regular diesel for over two weeks with no issues. The truck actually runs better on the blend."

Bickerton also noted that Sparta High School graduate Matt Saba attained an internship based on his participation in the biodiesel program, another way the program's out-of-the-box thinking further enhances the students' educational experience.

"We are thrilled to hear about the many creative outcomes resulting from the ongoing biodiesel program," said Danielle Dykstra, President of the SEF. "It's gratifying to know that the SEF grant to fund the high school's biodiesel program continues to be an unqualified success on every level."

The Sparta Education Foundation strengthens our public schools, supports our teachers and inspires our students. Since 2006, they have funded over $759,000 in grants to all five of Sparta's public schools. The Foundation is an independent, non-profit, all-volunteer organization whose mission is to engage the entire community in philanthropic giving. Visit spartaeducationfoundation.org for more information.



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