UMBC Watch

“We are extremely proud of UMBC’s Biodiesel Club for continuing to put their environmental principles into action on campus and in the community.”

President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III

Biodiesel Club Students Win Funding from International Sustainability Contest

June 15, 2009 – Inspired by Indian innovators, four members of the UMBC Biodiesel Club recently won $1,000 in seed funding from MTV Switch’s “Dream It, Do It Challenge,” a global competition for the best sustainability ideas from young people around the world.

Four UMBC rising juniors – chemical engineering majors Nick Selock, Marsha Walker, Donterrius Ethridge and Angela Nealen – were inspired by an Indian technology that produces household cooking gas from methane extracted from cow dung. The UMBC team won funding to apply the same principles to make biofuel at a Maryland horse farm.

Under the mentorship of Bradley Arnold, associate professor of chemistry, the club has been working at the Spencerville, Md., horse farm to apply classroom and lab concepts to the real world. So far they have produced biodiesel from used vegetable cooking oil from Baltimore area restaurants and used it to power tractors and heat facilities on the farm, as well as fuel their personal vehicles.

“The MTV prize money will help us to purchase and set up an anaerobic digester to collect methane, which is a more potent and harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, from horse manure and then convert it into methanol,” said Selock. “The current methanol we use is made from natural gas, which is much less environmentally friendly.”

The “Dream It, Do It” challenge is a joint venture between MTV Switch (the global climate change campaign of MTV Networks), the global social entrepreneurship organization Ashoka Gen V and the Staples Foundation for Learning.

The UMBC Biodiesel Club also continues to be active in green advocacy on campus. Members were part of UMBC’s recent participation in the National Teach-in on Global Warming, and have met with several Maryland elected officials.


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