STEP: Biodiesel Course
- Build a self sustaining, urban environmental project at Loyola for the purpose of education and improved environmental sustainability
- Empower students to explore immerging problems and collaborate to in-act change
- Lower Loyola's impact on the environment by converting waste vegetable oil from the university's cafeterias to produce biodiesel that can run in unmodified diesel engines
- Current STEP Course
- Comprised of Loyola students who are curious about alternative fuels and are interested in the hands-on approach to learning
- Students come from different departments and majors: the outcome is a mixture of students who are able to bring their talents to the equation
- The class provides students with the opportunity to go outside their major and gain experience in other fields of interest
Chemistry students help journalism students, psychology students guide business students, and policy makers teach art history majors; the varying backgrounds help to address the array of issues involved in alternative fuels.
The faculty contributing to the class is as diverse as the students. It is helpful to have such a respected and eager group of professors interested in biodiesel.
- Elizabeth Coffman, Communication
- David Crumrine, Acting Direct CUERP, Chemistry
- Marshall Eames, Director, University Environmental Sustainability, CUERP
- John Frendreis, Political Science
- Pamela Geddes, Biology
- Marc Hayford, School of Business Administration, Economics
- Rola Khisfe, School of Education
- Daniel Larkin, Biology
- Shane Lishawa, Research Associate and Former Biodiesel Lab Manager, CUERP
- Christopher Peterson, Natural Sciences & Environmental Studies/Science Program
- Martina Schmeling, Chemistry
- Nancy Tuchman, Vice Provost and Former Director CUERP, Biology
- Alison Varty, Former STEP Course Coordinator, CUERP
- Michael Welch, School of Business Administration, Operations Management
This is an interdisciplinary course, taking an innovative, experimental approach to teaching. In order to get the project going and keep it going, a wide range of knowledge is needed in business, biology, chemistry, environmental science, communication and politics. Because no one can be an expert in all of these areas, it makes sense to integrate the university's resources from different departments. No other class is able to offer such a comprehensive insight into one subject, making it a unique and powerful practice in teaching the students.
Lectures given by each professor provide an overview of their subject area as it applies to petroleum use and alternative energy, particularly biodiesel. The students learn the whole process:
- How to convert leftover grease into fuel.
- Economic and environmental benefits and constraints of biodiesel.
- Politics involved in using alternative fuels.
- Business strategy to aid the implementation of the project.
- How to market the use of renewable fuel sources as a progressive step in higher education.
The lectures provide necessary background information for the students to further pursue the research of biodiesel.
Each student participates in a semester-long group project. As an integral part of the interdisciplinary class, the group projects are a divide-and-conquer approach to the issues concerning sustainability at Loyola. Each project group is mentored by faculty members from the corresponding field of study. The projects will contribute to the overall goal of developing and sustaining the venture of producing clean, renewable alternative fuels from a waste product.
Hands-on experience comes while in the lab, where students learn the process of making biodiesel. From collecting the waste vegetable oil from the university's cafeterias to titrating the free fatty acid content, students are expected to learn and experience how to physically convert a waste product into a renewable fuel.