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  • Richland School District Two

South Carolina high school cuts ribbon on new biodiesel lab

During a grand-opening ceremony for the Bengal Biodiesel Lab at Blythewood High School in Columbia, South Carolina, on March 18 (National Biodiesel Day), students talked about how the program provides them with purpose and direction. (Photo: Richland School District Two)

Blythewood High School students say they are having the opportunity of a lifetime by learning how to recycle used cooking oil and convert it into biodiesel fuel. At a grand opening of the Bengal Biodiesel Lab March 18—National Biodiesel Day—students talked about how their life paths and purpose have been directed by the program.

“I literally love waking up in the morning and coming to this class,” said Tyler Carroll, a senior at Blythewood High School. “This course is industry level. We are learning how to do something that benefits the community and the world.”

The program, only the second of its kind in the country, was fueled by chemistry teacher Will Epps after he learned of a tremendous shortage of experienced engineers and chemists. The program was helped along by grants from the South Carolina Energy Office and Green Energy Biofuel.

“The experience these students gain is premier, second to none,” Epps said. “They are already being offered jobs in this field because of the hands-on experience they’ve received here.”

Biodiesel made by students is used to fuel the school tractor, but the hope is to one day power the school-bus fleet. (Photo: Richland School District Two)

Ayden Stevens, a senior at Blythewood High School, is beginning an internship at Nephron Pharmaceuticals as a result of her work in the biodiesel lab. “It’s impacted me a lot,” she said. “I know have a purpose and a path. I feel like I will have an advantage over my peers in college.”

Stevens credits Epps for her inspiration. “The best part of the program is seeing how much Mr. Epps places emphasis on what he sees is the most important product, not the biodiesel fuel, but the students,” she said. “It makes such an impact to see how his students come first.”

The students fuel the school tractor and hope in the future to fuel the district’s school-bus fleet. In the beginning, the program produced one liter of biodiesel a week, and now students are producing up to 150 gallons a week.

“This program hits the sweet spot,” said Superintendent Baron Davis. “It creates, sustains and invests in our students’ future. This gives them the training to lead and excel. I look forward to hearing about these students in the future.”



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