Massachusetts high school wins grant for WVO biodiesel project

By Bryan Sims | February 02, 2011

Thanks to a $17,729 grant provided by the Concord Education Fund, students at Concord Carlisle High School in Concord, Mass., will soon be able to participate in a full-fledged biodiesel project when the new school year rolls around in the fall.

According to Mike Vela, science department chairman at CCHS leading the project, part of the grant will help cover costs for the construction of a 24-foot by 12-foot shed near the school’s bus depot that will become the future home of a 70-gallon batch biodiesel reactor using used cooking oil collected from area restaurants. Currently, a few students are involved in the project’s early stages and consider it like a “club,” producing nominal amounts of biodiesel in the lab, about 500 milliliters worth, while conducting quality assurance testing and titration analysis. Vela envisions the project to morph into an education program within the school.

“My goal is to be up and running by the end of the summer,” Vela told Biodiesel Magazine. “Then, by fall when the students come in, they can tell their friends about it and recruit more students to join.”

Once the project is launched in the fall, Vela added, he hopes that the shed will serve as a hub for providing biodiesel to the school’s bus fleet or diesel generator. “My ultimate goal is to designate one of the buses that can run on biodiesel to have signage on it, so we can promote renewable fuel use in the community,” Vela said.

According to Vela, some students have already volunteered to help pitch in constructing the shed, along with other ancillary duties throughout the summer, in order to launch the project by fall.

“Essentially, any student that wants to help out can help in some way,” Vela said. “Whether they’re students that just want to get the waste vegetable oil from the restaurant or students who are comfortable doing the titration steps; every student plays an important role. We’re also trying to get our special education students involved in the project as well, to make the project accessible to as many students as we can.”

Although the project is currently in its infant stages, Vela said, the interest expressed by students has been overwhelming.

“For students to take a [waste] oil that would otherwise be disposed of in some way at a restaurant and turn it into something that’s usable like biodiesel—this project works very well with these students,” Vela said. “These students are just as excited as I am to get this project started.”

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