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Middle School students produce Biodiesel at VGCC

Henderson Middle School students were recently producing biodiesel fuel on the main campus of Vance-Granville Community College, as part of a partnership that has developed between the college’s Bioprocess Technology program and the Citizen Schools after-school program at the middle school. VGCC’s two-year Bioprocess Technology degree program is designed to prepare individuals to work as Process Operators in biological products manufacturing facilities.

Citizen Schools is a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing students with access to educational and economic opportunity. Henderson Middle School is one of only four schools in North Carolina with a Citizen Schools program, according to the national web site.
VGCC Bioprocess Technology program head/instructor Joseph Tyler has become one of the “citizen teachers” in the local community who lead apprenticeships for the program. Apprenticeships give students the opportunity to learn by doing while being taught by experts.

“Mr. Tyler has been doing a great job with the students,” said Kaylor Garcia, the local Citizen Teacher Liaison. “The students’ experiences are giving them a good foundation in science and sparking their interest in further study. This is going to help them be more motivated to go to college.” Team Leader Tamara Terry, who has accompanied the students to VGCC, added that working in the VGCC lab exposes students to possible future careers and subjects they might study in college. “The students gain confidence when they perform lab procedures and they find out what they can accomplish,” said Terry.

Under Tyler’s direction, the HMS students are getting hands-on experience in the college’s state-of-the-art biotechnology lab. The students, who included sixth, seventh and eighth-graders, created biodiesel from soybean oil on Nov. 17. They were building on what they had learned the week before, when they visited the Biofuels Center of North Carolina in Oxford and heard about converting various materials into fuel.

On Nov. 24, the students finished the production of a large batch of biodiesel for presentation at the concluding session of this fall’s Citizens School program. Arrangements are being made to test the biodiesel in a small diesel engine before the presentations in December.

For more information on Bioprocess Technology, call Joseph Tyler at (252) 738-3350.

Above: VGCC Bioprocess Technology program head Joseph Tyler works with a Henderson Middle School student in the lab on the college’s main campus on a process that creates biodiesel from soybean oil. (VGCC photo)