Exploring Biofuels: Polk County High School (PCHS), Columbus, N.C.

2007. In the Beginning.

 

Very often, a student can inspire a teacher, a whole school, a community, and several universities. One student’s ingenuity can grow a rainforest of learning and exploration that energizes students, schools, communities, and universities.

Student Liz Russell and teacher Tawana Weicker share their story.

Why WARHORSE? 

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." ~ Theodore Roosevelt. 


Having curiosity, exploring, researching, discovering and making WARHORSE emerged from creating something with what we were given, the excess of a sustainable approach to fuels. WARHORSE sought to waste not and learn a lot.

Planting the Seed.

Bringing the inspiration to Polk Students through a partnership with Polk County 4-H Summer Science Academy

Polk County 4H Summer Science Academy pictured below.

2009. Tawana Weicker and Jeremy Allsbrook, a Polk County Middle School (PCMS) rising seventh grader, filtering his first reclaimed used vegetable oil from a Polk Co. restaurant. Jeremy is now at Polk HIgh and a Biofuels explorer.

2009. Tawana Weicker and Jeremy Allsbrook, a Polk County Middle School (PCMS) rising seventh grader, filtering his first reclaimed used vegetable oil from a Polk Co. restaurant. Jeremy is now at Polk HIgh and a Biofuels explorer.

Weicker invited Kim Mirasola, Biology Teacher, PCHS,  to partner and help 4H Summer Science camp middle school students learn about the power of "waste."

Weicker invited Kim Mirasola, Biology Teacher, PCHS,  to partner and help 4H Summer Science camp middle school students learn about the power of "waste."

An Idea Becomes a Reality.

Integrating this experience into the chemistry curriculum at PCHS, Chemistry Teacher Sergey Zalevskiy proved the lesson would be applicable. 

 

Honors chemistry students brewing biodiesel for their senior project, showed that it could be done in the classroom with equipment presently on campus.

Honors chemistry students brewing biodiesel for their senior project, showed that it could be done in the classroom with equipment presently on campus.

Soon, the Advanced Placement, Chemistry class conducted a lesson on transesterification and Biodiesel officially became part of PCHS.

Soon, the Advanced Placement, Chemistry class conducted a lesson on transesterification and Biodiesel officially became part of PCHS.

Developing the Reality.
Community Collaborations Work With Our School.

Appalachian State:  Dr. Houser and  Dr. Taylor Warhorse Solutions: Tawana Weicker. Polk Teachers meet with Appalachian State University to seek collaboration with their biofuel graduate students.

Appalachian State:  Dr. Houser and  Dr. Taylor Warhorse Solutions: Tawana Weicker. Polk Teachers meet with Appalachian State University to seek collaboration with their biofuel graduate students.

The Reality Catches On. Students from RS Central and Hendersonville High School students reached out to Weicker for high school internships. They too wanted to learn how to make biofuel for their senior projects. 

The Reality Catches On. Students from RS Central and Hendersonville High School students reached out to Weicker for high school internships. They too wanted to learn how to make biofuel for their senior projects. 

Clemson University: David Thornton, Biodiesel Guru and Master of Bio Systems and Sustainability hosted Polk County Economic and Development members, our school board representative/ superintendent  and a group of high school teachers to educate on the potential of bio systems, sunflowers, and sustainability.

Clemson University: David Thornton, Biodiesel Guru and Master of Bio Systems and Sustainability hosted Polk County Economic and Development members, our school board representative/ superintendent  and a group of high school teachers to educate on the potential of bio systems, sunflowers, and sustainability.

Polk County School Board and the Turner/Tennant Foundation Piedmont Biofuels had a mobile biodiesel educational trailor for sale. Polk County School Board and the Turner/Tennant Foundation allocated  funds to purchase this dynamic unit. It is powered by used military diesel generator and the students’ ASTM ready biofuel.

Polk County School Board and the Turner/Tennant Foundation Piedmont Biofuels had a mobile biodiesel educational trailor for sale. Polk County School Board and the Turner/Tennant Foundation allocated  funds to purchase this dynamic unit. It is powered by used military diesel generator and the students’ ASTM ready biofuel.

New Earth Fabricators helped us get the processor up to code and ready for students.

New Earth Fabricators helped us get the processor up to code and ready for students.

The Stuart and Margaret L. Forbes Foundation granted funds to PCHS for a diesel truck that will be used by school system and runs on student produced biofuel from the high school and middle school used cafeteria cooking oil. No engine modifications needed to run veggie oil.

The Stuart and Margaret L. Forbes Foundation granted funds to PCHS for a diesel truck that will be used by school system and runs on student produced biofuel from the high school and middle school used cafeteria cooking oil. No engine modifications needed to run veggie oil.

Stage 1
Introduction of the Biofuels class into PCHS science elective curriculum.
Polk County High School Curriculum Guide

FIRST BIOFUELS CLASS Polk County High School 2013

FIRST BIOFUELS CLASS Polk County High School 2013

Jan. 2013. Polk County High receives NC Biotech Center Education Enhancement Grant. The $24,000 grant was written by Science Department Chair- Jennifer Allsbrook, who also reached out to the President of the NC BiofuelsAssociation-- Leif Forer, for guidance and advice on how to develop a stateapproved curriculum. 

 

Construction Begins. 
The Green Wolverine, EcoComplex & Education Center

Collaboration with PCHS’s Construction classes was the first official cross curricular experience for our students resulting from the development of the Biofuels course. Our students build our biodiesel educational trailer.

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Site visits begin.

The Biofuels 1 class (first semester) visits the Catawba EcoComplex to see full scale production from beginning to end (plants to diesel) in a commercial environment Catawba EcoComplex

The Biofuels 1 class (first semester) visits the Catawba EcoComplex to see full scale production from beginning to end (plants to diesel) in a commercial environment
Catawba EcoComplex

The Biofuels I class (second semester) visits Appalachian State University to see production in a research environment. Appalachian State Biodiesel

The Biofuels I class (second semester) visits Appalachian State University to see production in a research environment. Appalachian State Biodiesel

Clemson Biofuels and Bio Systems professor David Thornton visited Polk High and worked with chemistry teacher Mr. Zaleveskiy and biology teacher Kim Mirasola. David continually mentors Polk teachers while they develop their curriculum.

Clemson Biofuels and Bio Systems professor David Thornton visited Polk High and worked with chemistry teacher Mr. Zaleveskiy and biology teacher Kim Mirasola. David continually mentors Polk teachers while they develop their curriculum.

Local farmer, Charles Howard donated ¼ acres of sunflowers for our students to harvest. Sunflower seeds have a high oil content and are a renewable source of biofuel feedstock.

Local farmer, Charles Howard donated ¼ acres of sunflowers for our students to harvest. Sunflower seeds have a high oil content and are a renewable source of biofuel feedstock.

  Students of the Biofuels class visit Warhorse Solutions Founder, Tawana Weicker. Mrs. Weicker gets to see what her original idea is blossoming into. Tryon Daily Bulletin

 

Students of the Biofuels class visit Warhorse Solutions Founder, Tawana Weicker. Mrs. Weicker gets to see what her original idea is blossoming into. Tryon Daily Bulletin

Community Demonstrations.

Tryon Daily Bulletin The Polk County High School Biodiesel Program was proud to make their community debut at the local Columbus Farm Festival