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From Field to Classroom - Bill McFall Leads by Example
posted by: Cindy Omlin | September 30, 2014, 03:20 AM   

biofuelIntrigued by the innovation that sparked this award, I asked Bill to describe it and the effect it has had on his students, school, and larger community.  He shared the following:

We have all experienced the mundane classroom that relies on taking notes. Those classes are boring and students lose interest in those subjects.  I believe that if we take a different approach to education and make it fun, then students will strive to do more within the classroom.  We can spark student interest through hands-on, tactile learning models by which students will acquire and retain information more quickly.

I became utterly fascinated by the fact that I could make a fuel for diesel engines with a product that could be grown on farmland.  I began discussing the concept with my students and they were immediately intrigued and constantly wanted to know more.  In 2008, I was surprised to find that no schools in the state of Idaho had taught this subject to any significant degree.  So, I began putting together lessons within the biochemistry section of our chemistry class.

The goals of the project are to give students new opportunities in science and technology that would normally only be accessible to students in larger schools or at the university. Since students in this school and surrounding schools live in an area where farming is prevalent, it would seem logical to employ new ideas for saving money on the farm by converting some land into a viable alternative to fossil fuel usage.

We created our first small batch of bio-fuel in May 2008. The chemistry students burned their created fuel in a 3-cylinder diesel engine that was acquired from the University of Idaho, and it ran for hours.
This new idea of growing a fuel on farmland has given students, parents and community members a new revived interest in science. With the cross curricular project being incorporated at our school between agricultural science and physical science, we have had several hundred students, teachers, administrators and school board members involved in the alternative fuel project over the past five years. However, we will not stop with our school. We have given presentations to surrounding schools and conferences to expand our program’s impact.

Bill notes that our planet is changing and environmental conditions are worsening.  Fossil fuel usage is increasing while fossil fuel reserves are dwindling.  He believes that we are in a new age where we will need to find alternative to fossil fuels to keep the wheels of progress moving forward.  Clearly, he and his students are making significant contributions to that progress.

Congratulations to Bill McFall, his colleague Steve Braun, and the Troy High School AST program.  Their innovative work earned them the Professional Technical Education (PTE) Secondary Exemplary Program Runner-Up Award in 2009-2010 and the Exemplary Program Award in 2010-2011 from Northwest Accreditation and the State Department of Education. We are proud of you and grateful for your high degree of professionalism!

Comments (1)Add Comment
Science Research & Education
written by WehrdScience, ASR Labs, October 02, 2014

Congrats Bill, Steve, and Troy students on actively pursuing a solution to a very real problem. I am confident your students benefited more from this engaging #studentdriven opportunity than a typical classroom environment! Cheers!

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