Hazard Community and Technical College diesel instructors Jim Caudill and Jeff Stidham recently participated in a Chemistry of Biodiesel course sponsored by the Kentucky Soybean Board and held at Owensboro Community and Technical College.
As these instructors know, the diesel technicians of the future are hungry for knowledge – in this case, knowledge of biodiesel. After diesel students complete the online biodiesel course sponsored by the Kentucky Soybean Board, instructors and students often want to know “what can I learn about soy biodiesel next?”
After being asked that question several times, biodiesel education coordinator Les Pike, a retired diesel instructor himself, put forth a proposal to the Board for a hands-on biodiesel training for diesel instructors who had expressed interest in taking their education to the next level.
The Board funded this training, held at the end of May, for those instructors most active in biofuels education. The course, designed to help instructors better understand the chemistry of soy biodiesel, was taught by Mike Rodgers of Owensboro Community and Technical College.
Rodgers currently serves as Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs, but received his degree in chemistry from the University of South Carolina. “I spent the next four years turning wrenches,” he said, and learned firsthand how crucial math, chemistry and even trigonometry skills are for technicians.
Rodgers asked the instructors, “do you use the word blends in your classroom? Do you talk about solvency? What about lubricity? Do you ever have a student ask what modifications he needs to make to his engine in order to run biodiesel?” Every head nodded, and Rodgers explained “this is the basis of teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and this class will convince you more than ever how critically important those skills are in the shop.”
Instructors received a full day of hands-on training, a biodiesel kit courtesy of the soybean board to use in their own classrooms, a clear understanding of the difference between soy biodiesel and so-called “yellow grease” (used fryer oil), and an admonition from Rodgers and Pike to use the chemistry kits for educational purposes only.
“We do not advocate making biodiesel in your basement,” Rodgers said. “We do not advocate making biodiesel out of yellow grease. We want you to learn how this clean-burning, renewable and sustainable advanced biofuel is made so that you and your
students will have no doubt when a vehicle comes into your shop that whatever is wrong with it, soy biodiesel is absolutely not to blame.”
The attendees left with a clear understanding of the chemistry of biodiesel – how it is made, how it is blended, and how they can use chemistry-based experiments to advance STEM training in their diesel programs.
The Kentucky Soybean Board is responsible for the investment of our state’s soybean checkoff dollars for research, education, and promotion. For more information, visit www.kysoy.org.
Rae Wagoner is the Director of Communication at Kentucky Soybean.