Learning Through Biodiesel

John Davis

Producing biodiesel is proving to be a valuable tool in teaching students chemistry and how to be friendly to the environment.

For example, one small school in Northern Michigan has an FFA group that is producing biodiesel from leftover restaurant grease and oil. This story in the Huron (MI) Daily Tribune says FFA members at North Huron High School, along with their adviser and science teacher Clark Brock, have been using a biodiesel maker bought by the FFA at a convention:

Brock said his students are learning quite a bit from the hands-on experience of producing the fuel.

“They’re learning a lot of chemistry,” he said. “They’re learning the process of how to take used vegetable oil and separate the triesters from the glycerin.” Students also are learning how to determine the quality of the vegetable oil that goes into making the biodiesel.

“They test the oil for fatty free acids,” Brock said. “If the oil is used for too long, or if there’s too much fat in it, the oil isn’t useable.”

There are plans to test the biodiesel in several vehicles this summer.

Now there’s a class project worth its weight.