Junior high school students make their own biodiesel

    Junior high students at Wissahickon Charter School in northeast Philadelphia built a biodesel processing system that converts fryer oil into fuel for cars.

    A group of junior high students at Wissahickon Charter School in Northeast Philadelphia are filling up gas tanks with their own batch of biodiesel. For a science project they built a biodesel processing system that converts fryer oil into fuel for cars. WHYY’s Peter Crimmins reports.

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    The 8th graders at Wissahickon Charter School are pouring their very first batch of biodiesel into the tank of an Outward Bound van, which takes young people on backpacking trips. They’ve been working on the system for almost a year, coming in after school, over the summer, and on weekends. 14 year-old Daniel Farmer says he did not join a basketball league this year because he would rather tinker with chemistry.

    Farmer: I like to pour the tube into the other tube and make it explode, you know? I’ve always been into that kind of thing. And then you add the environment to it, it was just like, why not?

    The processing system converts used fryer oil and into diesel fuel. The project began 2 years ago, but focused first not on the on the nuts and bolts of science. Instead, science teacher Michael Friedman says most of the time was spent learning about the global geopolitics of oil and building relationships with local groups who produce and use biodiesel.

    Friedman: How many kids are going to end up scientists? What the important thing is is that kids understand the role of science in their lives forever. That’s the most important thing and often times science is used to try to obfuscate the truth.

    Friedman says the group is now recruiting and training younger students to process biodiesel.

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