Student's Idea Fuels Innovative Biodiesel Production Facility at Embry-Riddle
Facility's Feb. 22 Opening Highlights School's Focus on Engineering Solutions for Real Problems
Daytona Beach, FL, February 14, 2012
Last year Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student engineer Michelle Rodio asked: Why not convert used cooking oil from the student cafeteria into biodiesel to run the lawn maintenance vehicles at the school’s Daytona Beach campus?
On Wednesday, Feb. 22, the university will answer Rodio’s question when it officially opens an innovative biodiesel production facility she developed on campus.
Rodio, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, said she got her idea last fall in a course she took on clean energy systems, which required students to do a project on alternative energy. “Having already been interested in biofuel, I jumped at the opportunity to study how to make biodiesel and learn about its benefits,” she said.
With help from two other students, Jay Ekelmann and Ken Meierjurgen, she obtained funding from Richard Heist, the campus’s executive vice president and chief academic officer, and Maj Mirmirani, dean of engineering. After that, she took charge of the project and managed it to completion.
“We are proud of our students’ innovative spirit and their ability to put into practice the knowledge they acquire,” Heist said. “Green engineering research is one of Embry-Riddle’s core research areas and this biodiesel production facility is consistent with our university’s applied research focus. It is also consistent with other student and faculty research focused on engineering wind, ocean, and solar-powered solutions to real-world problems.”
The biodiesel processer mixes used cooking oil from the campus kitchens with methanol and sodium hydroxide to produce biodiesel. The processer can make 40 gallons of biodiesel at a time for $1 per gallon.
Rodio’s innovative solution ties in with an Embry-Riddle program called IGNITE! that seeks to enhance education by encouraging students to get involved in research. Embry-Riddle is unique among U.S. universities in the extent that its students are allowed to take part in applied research.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new biodiesel production facility will be at 2 p.m. The facility is located behind the M and S Buildings, near the campus’s south entrance from South Clyde Morris Boulevard. Heist and Mirmirani will also speak at the event, which is open to the public.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world's largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 40 baccalaureate, master's and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business and Engineering. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., and through the Worldwide Campus with more than 150 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit http://www.embryriddle.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.