Blythewood High School Making Biodiesel

Blythewood High School Making Biodiesel

Episode 4115
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With so much focus on the development of electric cars these days, it’s easy to overlook some of the tried and true clean fuels that are still making a positive impact on our environment; but, we recently visited a group of alt-fuel all-stars who are fueling their future with biodiesel!

Blythewood high school serves about 2000 students in rural Richland county, South Carolina. Typical of the area, it offers a few vocational classes in agriculture, construction and mechanics, but this chemistry course is anything but typical. These students are learning how to make biodiesel from donated used cooking oil. 

This unique curriculum is the brainchild of Will Epps, a science teacher here who identified a need in the local job market and sought a solution.

WILL EPPS: In the summers I work as a chemist at Westinghouse and what I noticed is that, in the lab space, there was a lot of turnover with technicians. And I was, you know, as a chemistry teacher, and kind of being one foot in both worlds, it kind of dawned on me and I was thinking well, why can’t we train high school kids to have this job? Noticing that what we’re doing in a chemistry class, they need a little bit extra to be successful in that environment.

JOHN DAVIS: Pairing that idea with some basic equipment found at the school, Will got the biodiesel program up and running a couple of years ago. 

It’s been expanding ever since and recently earned a grant from the South Carolina Energy Office through the US Department of Energy’s state energy program, with additional help from Palmetto Clean Fuels, South Carolina’s clean cities coalition; but it’s really Will’s infectious enthusiasm that draws students to the class.

AVA: I wanted to get involved in this program because I had, uh, Mr. Epps as a teacher before, and he was a really great teacher, and he convinced me that I was good at science and that I could continue being in science classes because I was previously a little insecure about my abilities with science.

CAMDEN: and also, I like doing the work. The work’s pretty-- it’s complex, but easy at the same time. It gets your brain, you know, pumping.

TESSA: And, it being more, like, out there and being more, like, project-based instead of just like papers and stuff, I’m like “that could be an interesting class to go into.”

JOHN DAVIS: In this lab, students not only learn the basics of chemical reactions, but also gain over 100 hours of laboratory experience; enough to help them qualify for chemical engineering and other lab internships at local companies.

WILL EPPS: It’s a great product. You know, it’s simple enough for students to understand; you know, we mix two things together and we get a product that separates out, and then we have a lot of analytical chemistry techniques that we need to proof that the fuel is good enough quality to go in an engine. So, it kind of fits both worlds, um, and it’s really nice to be able to take a waste product and change it into something that we can use again.

JOHN DAVIS: The student-made fuel is currently being tested in the school’s tractors and by diesel truck owners in the local community with great results, but the ultimate goal is to top off their own buses with a cleaner blend of B10 or B20 biodiesel made right at the school.

WILL EPPS: So the plan right now, and where we’re at, is that we can make 40 gallons of B100 in a week, and so the goal is to maybe double or triple that capacity over the next couple of years. And, you know, really our product is the biodiesel, but really the product is our students, and getting them into the workforce and being successful.

AYDEN: Well, now I’m really interested in chemistry.

KATRELL: I’m happy we can, you know-- we’re doing at least a little something to help.

TY: I know where we’re going right now is not the best, but if we can do any amount to help it, then that’s what I’m all for.

TYLER: It’s just a really cool thing to be a part of; saying “hey, you see that bus driving? I helped fuel that.”

JOHN DAVIS: Gaining a healthy respect for the environment, to go along with invaluable hands-on experience, these students are literally fueling a clean driving future for all of us!

Celebrating 75 Years of Porsche

Celebrating 75 Years of Porsche

Episode 4308
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

Porsche builds incredibly fun-to-drive automobiles! And for 43 seasons, we’ve spent as much of our time driving them as possible. Well, this year Porsche is celebrating its own 75 years of motoring excellence, and when we were invited to a round-up of many of their most amazing efforts…how could we possibly say no?

ALEX KELLUM: I used to think introducing a brand-new Porsche model was hard. After all, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? But then I realized, for the very same reason, it’s easy to introduce them. One mention of the name ‘Porsche’ and their legacy sorta speaks for itself.

And that legacy is what led me across the “Big Drink” to Stuttgart, Germany, to help celebrate an important birthday and milestone for Porsche.

75 years, as a matter of fact. So, I got the invite, you’re the plus-one. Let’s go back in time to drive some of Porsche’s greatest hits.

And what better way to start the day than with two 911’s? I left the grounds of Porsche’s secret storage facility in this not-so-stealthy rear-engine prototype: a 1992 911 Carrera 2 Coupe Clubsport.

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It was made to slot in between the Carrera 2 and Carrera RS. That means motorsports-oriented, yet completely street legal. So, while it added front bucket seats and ditched the rears, it still kept some creature comforts like air conditioning. Even for a hand-built prototype, the Carrera 2 Clubsport was solid.

“This thing is just a treat to drive. If this is how I’m starting the day, I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Unfortunately, it never saw production.

So, I followed it up with one that did, albeit just 189 units: The Carrera 3.2 Coupe Clubsport.

This one does forgo amenities like AC, and power windows, and even the passenger sun visor for maximum weight-savings. Lighter engine components too, for a 6,840 RPM redline that, along with lower suspension and a limited-slip diff, crafted a truly tethered driving experience.

“The sounds of shifting the gears…all the bumps in the road. You can feel every little bit. But it’s not…it’s not unbearable. I mean, that’s what you want in a car like this anyway. You want to feel, and hear, and smell and, well, probably not taste; but, you wanna feel all the feels.”

Celebrating 75 Years of Porsche 5

As fun and historically significant as these Carreras were, the 911 is just the most obvious layer of Porsche’s history. Digging deeper meant a late morning cruise in this 356 Super 90.

This thing was old-school cool, sporting an air-cooled 4-cylinder boxer making a carbureted 90 horsepower, give or take.

My hour behind the wheel gave credence to the 911’s origins. The Super 90 gracefully blended driver’s engagement with a surprising sense of comfort, putting me at ease while strolling between pockets of civilization.

And then it was time to kick things up a notch: this 1988 Porsche 959. The 959 became Porsche’s technological benchmark when it first launched, thanks in part to its 444 horsepower biturbo boxer-six powering an electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system. Combined with the iconic aerodynamic styling and the 80’s sci-fi-esque cabin, I was starstruck.

“You know, we come all the way out here and we talk about legacy, right? You know, we’re talking about the history of this brand and the evolution of it and what it means to have the Porsche crest proudly stamped on the hood or anywhere else on the car. And, while there are a lot of great examples of that here, the 959 is certainly up there.”

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After the 959, there was one more I just had to check out: this 944 Turbo Cabriolet. The front-engine 944 has always had a special place in my heart, if not for most Porsche-files. A boxy exterior that screams 80’s performance accented by the coolest thing ever made…pop-up headlights. Jokes aside, to me, the 944 is the still-attainable classic Porsche, so experiencing one for myself was a dream come true. As was the case with just about everything else I drove that day. Icons, bucket-listers, mold-breakers. Each one, undeniably, a true Porsche.

And after a day spent with all of them, all I can really say is, if this is what Porsche has accomplished after 75 years, I can’t wait to see what they do at 100.