Go Clean, Go Green, Go Algae

News photos by Amelia Fox Stephanie Sievers, and Courtney Vidovich feed the algae.
News photos by Amelia Fox Megan Jolivette, Elizabeth Levy go over notes. In the background Ian Kurtz and Alex Doyle.

In this oil-dependent world, a group of students at Daniel Boone High school are looking at alternatives that “Go Clean, Go Green, Go Algae!”

A handpicked group of nine juniors and seniors are making bio-diesel fuel from the lipid oils found in algae.

The project began six years ago with Daniel Boone teacher Syd Harwood, Fleetwood. He started the research project for his students, but it wasn’t until the last two years when the project really took off. A team of 30 students spearheaded the green initiative last year when they received a $10,000 grant from FirstEnergy. $7,000 was given to the students, $1,000 was used to build two active reactors and begin construction on others for the project, $1,000 was given to charitable donations and $1,000 to the district for grants.

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This year, the team is “going for the green” once again. Students Ian Kurtz, Alex Doyle, Elizabeth Levy, Noah Coates, John Dugan, Megan Jolivette, Dan Downs, Stephanie Sievers, and Courtney Vidovich, under the direction of Mr. Shannon Helzer, and Mr. Syd Harwood, have entered for a chance to win another grant.

On Oct. 14, the team entered The Lexus Eco Challenge: Scholastic that challenges them to make renewable energy from fossil fuels. The final product needs to be completed for Nov. 11.

The grant, worth $10,000, will give the school $2,000 and the students altogether $7,000. The remaining $1,000 to be used in the teacher’s classrooms. The goal of the challenge is to educate the community on renewable energy research, environmental issues, and alternative energies.

Algae provides around 100 times more fuel per acre than another other renewable resource. To grow, algae needs sunlight, the proper temperature and nutrients. Corn can produce 18 yields (gallons per acre) per year, while algae can produce 5,000 to 15,000 yields (gallons per acre) per year. Algae can be produced all year long, where corn is a seasonal crop.

“Algae can reproduce so quickly. Corn cannot.” student Noah Coates said. “It’s exciting to be apart of an active group to change the world.”

The students collected algae from a pond in Pottstown to populate the reactors. The problem with the accumulation of algae from a public place is that bugs, snails and other creatures are often in the algae. “We don’t know what strain the algae is until we press it,” student Dan Downs said.

After the reactors are fully populated with algae, the algae is removed from the container where it’s dried and pressed to extract the lipid oil. The lipid oil is then made into small quantities of diesel fuel.

“We’re able to [produce fuel] as a group of students on a small scale,” student John Dugan said.

Daniel Boone High School is the only known high school in the country creating bio-diesel from algae. The team recycles everything they use. With the extraction process, both bio-diesel and glycerol are produced. (Soaps and other products can be made from glycerol.)

“We want to ween the world off fuel,” Coates said.

The ultimate goal for the school is to build a greenhouse that would focus on growing algae.

Daniel Boone is spreading the word by reaching out to other schools and the community for an alternative resource.

In efforts to reach out and teach others, the team invited family and friends, community leaders and representatives from Fleetwood High School to a presentation of the project Nov. 6.

The students received donations of water containers from The Water Guy.

If you would like more see or learn more information on this renewable energy please contact heltzer@dboone.com.