Under the aegis of the NSF CAREER grant, ODU Biofuels Lab makes educational outreach visits to local high schools to introduce the ideas of sustainability, renewable energy, and biofuels to budding young scientists and engineers. Since the start of the grant, the Lab's outreach program has made 4 high school visits.
In June 2014, two Biofuels Lab group members went to Norview High School in Norfolk, VA and worked with students in AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Science, doing a hands-on sustainability exercise using goldfish crackers to represent resources, both renewable and non-renewable. Students were able to see the effects of depletion of a non-renewable resource as compared to sustainable use of a renewable alternative directly in this exercise.
The Biofuels Lab group worked with students at I.C. Norcom high school in Portsmouth, VA in November 2014 in another outreach effort at the K-12 level. At least one school visit is planned for each semester; more are implemented as the opportunities become available. The I.C. Norcom visit also led to a Biofuels Lab tour by a group of HS students from that school in February 2015.
Each summer, several high school students are offered the opportunity to work in the Biofuels lab on shorter-duration projects associated with the main research efforts in the Lab. The students get a taste of real lab research and gain some practical experience in several laboratory techniques. As with a traditional apprenticeship, the students are also compensated with a stipend for their work during the month.
The Biofuels Apprenticeship began as a 2-week program for 2-3 students in 2013, and has increased in size and scope to a full month long in 2015. Five high school students came to the Lab from 10 am - 4 pm each day and learned while working. They cultivated algae in several different media, studying comparative growth rates, as a long-term project throughout the month. Graduate students in the Biofuels Lab Team provided guidance and direct instruction, teaching the HS students about lab safety, analysis techniques, and introducing them to the cutting-edge research actually under way at the Lab. The program also included an Energy Debate for which the students researched and developed the case for different approaches to energy systems management, and a 15 minute presentation of the experience and of their results at the end of the program.
Biofuels Apprenticeship Program