Racing boats with biodiesel

Biotechnology is a part of many disciplines and industry, but how can you make it hands-on for your students? Beth Schoonover, Biology and Biotechnology teacher at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, attended the Ag Biotech Academy workshop and took what she learned to her classroom!

Schoonover said, “Preparing biodiesel fuels from used grease is a great example of how biotechnology can be used to solve some critical and timely environmental issues.” Her biotechnology students completed the biodiesel investigation using new and used plant oils.

Next, students completed tests in the investigation lab such as the density, cloud pint, pH, color, and odor of the fuel. Schoonover said, “Our best and most fun test was testing the fuels in the putt-putt boats. The boats worked wonderfully and the students had a blast racing them!”

“My students reacted wonderfully to this topic and activity! We all had so much fun and really bonded that day! There were some issues and problems that had to be solved, mostly involving moving large amounts of water without spilling, but that is also, where the bonding comes in. I initially had other concerns that we all worked through together, such as how careful we would need to be holding and turning slippery glass separation funnels with flammable oil in them. But everyone was very cooperative. The students were very much engaged and learning the entire time! They all overwhelmingly recommended repeating the biodiesel lab in my future biotechnology classes.”

“Racing the boats was definitely the highlight for me. I will most likely repeat this lab in my biotechnology classes in the future. It is really fun, very educational, and deals with some important, current, real-world issues.”

Schoonover said she will try to complete this earlier in the year so the water and boats can be stationed outdoors. “All of my classes did have turn racing the boats though because they were so much fun. They also work for recruiting students into science classes!”