Blythewood High School students say they are having the opportunity of a lifetime by learning how to recycle used cooking oil and convert it into biodiesel fuel. At a grand opening of the Bengal Biodiesel Lab, students talked about how their life paths and purpose have been directed by the program.
“I literally love waking up in the morning and coming to this class,” said BHS Senior Tyler Carroll. “This course is industry level. We are learning how to do something that benefits the community and the world.”
The program, only the second of its kind in the country, was fueled by chemistry teacher Will Epps after he learned of a tremendous shortage of experienced engineers and chemists. The program was helped along by grants from the S.C. Energy Office and Green Energy Biofuels. “The experience these students gain is premier, second to none,” says Epps. “They are already being offered jobs in this field because of the hands-on experience they’ve received here.”
“It’s impacted me a lot. I now have a purpose and a path,” says Ayden Stevens, a BHS senior.
“I feel like I will have an advantage over my peers in college.” Stevens is beginning an internship at Nephron Pharmaceuticals as a result of her work in the biodiesel lab.
Stevens credits Mr. Epps for her inspiration. “The best part of the program is seeing how much Mr. Epps places emphasis on what he sees is the most important product, not the biodiesel fuel, but the students. It makes such an impact to see how his students come first.”
The students fuel the school tractor and hope in the future to fuel the district’s school bus fleet.
In the beginning, the program produced one liter a week of biodiesel and now students are producing up to 150 gallons a week.
“This program hits the sweet spot. It creates, sustains and invests in our students’ future,” says Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis. “This gives them the training to lead and excel. I look forward to hearing about these students in the future.”