The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 24, 2012

OSU introduces biofuels education

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Every year in high schools across the country, students learn about the Pythagorean theorem, mathematical equations and formulas. They are then asked to regurgitate the information in a classroom setting.

Helping students find practical uses for these theories, formulas and equations is one of the goals of Shane Robinson, associate professor in the Oklahoma State University’s Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership. This idea, coupled with the emergence of green energy and biofuels, has led to a partnership between Robinson and the OSU Biobased Products and Energy Center (BioPEC).

“A focus of ours is to produce teachers who can teach science, math and technology in the context of agriculture,” Robinson said. “We really feel like our teachers have a unique opportunity to integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competencies at the secondary level through real-life application of their students’ agricultural projects.”

One of the objectives listed on the BioPEC website is to provide education about biobased products and energy through secondary education, so this partnership made sense. Discussions began three years ago and have resulted in support from Oklahoma’s National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF EPSCoR) providing .25 FTE for two doctoral students in agricultural education.

These two students, Marshall Baker and Joey Blackburn, have been working to help develop curricular materials for high school agriculture teachers focusing on biofuels and renewable energy. The importance of introducing green and clean energy to secondary students grows as this new phenomenon sweeps the country.

“Everywhere you turn, you read about green energy and the need for clean energy,” Robinson said.  “We stress the importance of being a life-long learner to our students. We stress to them the importance of being aware of the current issues of the world we live in and being able to talk about those issues in the classroom. Therefore, it’s important for our pre-service and in-service teachers to be knowledgeable about biofuels and other renewable energies.”

In an effort to educate students most effectively about renewable energy, a wind energy camp recently was held for Stillwater High School agriculture students ranging from eighth through 12th grade.  

The students were split into two groups for the camp. In one room, students were exposed to a very school-like, structured lecture and quizzed following each 40-minute session. The second room was much more loosely structured and more interactive.