SustainAbility: College student showcase
There simply was not enough time to take in everything at the Mesa State College Student Showcase on April 27.
I went specifically to see the engine converted to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) by a team of students at Western Colorado Community College, as well as my friend Suzanne Bronson’s film.
Little did I know I would encounter an avalanche of intellectual and cultural inspiration.
Donald Cardin, David Farnsworth, Tyler Mooney and Mike Rowe demonstrated “CNG Motor Conversion: A Greener Future with Compressed Natural Gas.” The small Honda engine used to run on propane but the four students adapted the engine to accommodate compressed natural gas. This project ended up winning in the Career and Technical Programs category.
The converted engine, perched on a special stand, started right up for the demonstration. The students said the most challenging aspect of the conversion was creating a container to transport and house the fuel tank. This part of the project involved a lot of metal fabrication and welding.
The students want to “bring awareness to this alternative fuel’s capabilities and potential,” according to the project abstract.
Compressed natural gas is the most abundant national fuel source and can also be produced by recycling by-products of waste water treatment and landfills.
The fuel tank for the engine was filled at the compressed natural gas station recently opened off Riverside Parkway west of the city shops. I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the filling station where public officials, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, extolled the benefits of locally produced compressed natural gas.
In order for the engine to actually power a riding lawn mower, a small tank would need to be created and attached to the mower and an easy method to transport the tank must be devised.
Faculty sponsor John Sluder said next year students will tackle these problems so the lawn mowers used at the community college can be converted to compressed natural gas.
On the way to the student showcase at Moss Performing Arts Center, I got the lowdown on a solar-powered dune buggy created primarily from donated parts by four first-year mechanical engineering students.
At the performing arts center I gave the right side of my brain a treat. After absorbing a music video, Bronson’s film and an excellent rendition of a Robert Schumann piano quartet, I scurried back across campus to learn about commercial composting.
Eric Ballard, Phillip Cunningham, Evan Clapper, Adam Keen and Nicholas Reecy explained their “Curbside Composting Feasibility Study.”
The environmental science majors chose to explore creating a company to pick up food waste from local restaurants, compost the materials and sell the compost.
Their research discovered the volume of food waste in our area is too low to produce enough compost for a viable company. Although this plan was not feasible, the group did draw interest from some local restaurants, landfill staff and at least one city council member.
Coincidentally, I recently read an Associated Press article about this very subject highlighting food waste composting companies in New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., and California.
You can read the complete article at http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2011-04-24-food-composting-restaurant.htm.
There was so much crammed into the two-hour showcase, I barely scratched the surface. However, free parking on campus greatly improved the experience.
Maybe next year more time can be allotted for the event. Kudos to Mesa State
Learn about the showcase at http://www.mesastate.edu/showcase.
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