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Students find new use for discarded lawn clippings

Morada Middle School students design hybrid school bus for contest

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Posted: Friday, April 6, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 7:39 am, Fri Apr 6, 2012.

Tired of all those lawn clippings filling up your yard waste can? The students at Morada Middle School have found another use for them. The leadership class designed a hybrid school bus that would run off of pellets made from lawn clippings.

Teacher Aaron Sass said his students came up with the idea all on their own. The group was kicking around ideas, knowing they wanted to do something with biodiesel.

They looked outside, noticed the lush green fields waiting just beyond the window and saw a whole lot of fuel just waiting to be used.

The process takes lawn clippings combined with wax to form pellets, which are used as the main fuel source. But it's a hybrid, too.

"In addition, the bus has a series of magnets, surrounded by coiled wire. When those magnets pass through the wires, an electric current is produced that charges a series of batteries. When the batteries are fully charged, the engine shuts off and the bus runs on electric power," explained Sass in an email.

The project took first place in the Garrett Morgan Symposium, a national competition to encourage students to create new ideas for sustainable transportation.

The program is part of the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program, designed to interest middle-schoolers in transportation careers. Morgan invented the original three-way stop signal.

Seventhand eighth-graders in the leadership class have competed for three years, and took second place in the past two years. This is their first top win.

"I'm really proud of my students. I was really excited to see how excited they were to find out they had won," said Sass.

The competition took place at the California Department of Transportation office in Stockton. Teams competed nationwide through teleconferencing.

Seven Morada students presented their idea and took questions from other schools.

Too bad Lodi Unified School District won't be using the bus anytime soon.

"Right now, it's a design. It would take thousands and millions of dollars to do that. So we don't have one," said Sass.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com. For more information about local education issues, read our Education Café blog.

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