NEWS MEDIA CONTACTS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jeff Sherwood, 202-586-5806 January 7, 2009
CHICAGO HEIGHTS, IL – Chemistry teacher Chris Clausing and his students at Bloom Trail High School are at the crossroads of alternative energy and science education. Clausing’s twin interests in green energy and science education led him to participate in one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) education programs, titled “Academies for Creating Teacher Scientists” (ACTS). While participating in the ACTS program, Clausing was encouraged to start the Motion Minus Petrol (MMP) project: a biofuels program that has clear and tangible benefits to both the students of Bloom Township High School and the local community.
Through the DOE’s ACTS program, Clausing spent the summers of 2004 – 2006 as a researcher at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory in DuPage County, Illinois. The ACTS program inspired Clausing to start his biofuels project, Motion Minus Petrol. He subsequently applied for and received a $40,000 grant from BP to fund his innovative education project; the BP grant allowed Clausing to leverage and build the MMP program at Bloom Trail High School.
The goal of MMP is to bring a hands-on approach to science education, enabling students to learn about new ideas and trends in the energy industry, including advances in alternative energy. In the MMP program, students create their own fuel in the classroom: they make ethanol from field corn and biodiesel from used vegetable oil recycled from the student cafeteria. Concurrently, auto shop students build go-carts that run on either a 50%-and-above mixture of ethanol and gasoline or on 100% biodiesel. The MMP project has grown and evolved since its inaugural year: more recently MMP purchased and operated a biodiesel reactor, a small bus and a diesel box truck, all of which run on the biodiesel that is produced by the students in the classroom. In addition, Clausing developed an alternative energy demonstration that he presents at other schools. The MMP project has garnered significant attention: the students’ go-carts were driven at three large district alternative energy fairs and were included in demonstrations at several alternative energy shows around the Chicago metropolitan area.
Clausing’s MMP project is an example of the impact a teacher can have not only on students, but also on the community at large. The biofuels project has transformed alternative energy awareness at the school: students have been inspired to take ownership of the project, to educate their community at alternative energy fairs and to pursue careers in science and technology. Clausing’s fellow teachers have been inspired to take energy education classes, to buy hybrid vehicles and the project even inspired one teacher to apply for, and receive, the Earth Day Greening Project sponsored by the Wal-Mart Foundation. As a result, the school district has received 36 solar panels and promoted several greening-centered student activities for Earth Day.
The DOE supports research opportunities for teachers at DOE National Laboratories. DOE ACTS is a program designed to create a cadre of K-12 science, technology and math teachers who will serve as teacher leaders. The three-year program is based on the most current educational research to increase teacher content knowledge and to support teachers seeking professional development and innovation in their schools. Teachers receive a stipend as well as mini-grant money for additional professional travel or training and for purchasing items for their classroom. For more information, please visit www.scied.science.doe.gov
PHOTOS of teacher working with students available