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Location: South-WestYear: 2009Grant: £3000
Teacher: Mr Andrew ColvilleScientist: Dr Clive Butler, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry, University of Exeter
Two consecutive Partnership Grants have allowed Axe Valley Community College to set up a thriving business that produces biodiesel from waste oil, and a biodiesel analysis service that allows them to check their produce against industry standards. What lies in store for this Business and Enterprise Specialist College?
Visitors to the college's exhibition stand at the Summer Science Exhibition.
A Partnership Grant awarded in 2008 enabled Axe Valley Community College to set up a business that converts waste oil into biodiesel. Sourcing raw materials from the school canteen and local chip shops, their initial aim was to run the school minibus on this biodiesel. However by the end of the project students were producing between 150 to 200 litres of biodiesel every week in the school biodiesel conversion plant. Encouraged by this resounding success, they successfully applied for a second Partnership Grant.
This time their goal is to develop quality control tests for their biodiesel so that it can be sold commercially, and to act as consultants for other schools that wish to set up similar projects to date a number of schools have approached Axe Valley and plans are in place to help two central London schools set up plants and help a Jamaican school develop a biodiesel plant. Once again working in partnership with Dr Clive Butler from the University of Exeter, sixth form students have already devised a range of standard testing procedures and trained year 10 and year 11 students to use them safely. Pupils and staff were invited by the Royal Society to exhibit at the 2010 Summer Science Exhibition, where they shared their work with other scientists and members of the general public.
"This project has really succeeded in getting the entire school involved, enabling students to use scientific procedures in real world situations and giving them the opportunity to learn first-hand about the set-up of a business."Andrew Colville, teacher.
A particular strength of the project lies in its cross-curricular appeal, which has enabled pupils across the school to gain a variety of skills. Pupils were involved in setting up the business, handling tax and accounts, designing and making the logo, and marketing it to local businesses and media. River Cottage, a popular programme presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, ran a feature on the project, which led to a number of requests for information from other schools.
As a result Axe Valley business students have held a conference for teachers who have shown an interest in setting up such a project. Their next step will be to market their consultancy and analysis services to these schools. There is also the potential to produce soap from the waste products of the conversion process, although this idea is still in early development.
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