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We made our own fuel for our school tractor, for our school bus – world first in Otaki College?


Otaki College student Hamish McMillan working on blended fuel

When Otaki College principal Andy Fraser heard about Blended Fuel Solutions goals at the Clean Technology Centre, he immediately saw an opportunity to get his students involved. 

What has transpired is not something you can get in your everyday classes. It is hands-on learning and knowledge creation that has long-lasting impact.

Clean Technology Sector helped Otaki students learn the art and science of emulsifying fuel. This blended fuel reduces harmful emissions and helps extend the life of old engines.

The school’s college students has since made a container full of blended fuel, placed into their school tractor, a van and a few buses.  The school kids then looked at what the impact of the emissions were, the effects on millage and if there was an improvement in van and tractors engines.  

The results from the experiment were so positive that now, the school’s vans and tractor, along with the two commercial buses run on the blended fuel. 

What’s to stop the kids from going further?

Fraser says if students can learn to blend fuel, they can design and build an electric bike powered with recycled laptop batteries by utilizing the tools of math’s, measurement and construction.

The blended fuel system is not all.

The College is now also working with EnTyre, a company based in Otaki that looks at recycling tyres through a process of breaking it down, removing sulfur from the latex and reusing it into new products that will not affect the environment. 

“Our students will be exploring such processes run by EnTyre.  The project is set to establish about 40 or so new jobs in the area, its about getting the kids to understand science and recycling and that such processes can be incredibly powerful.  We want to integrate all of this into our curriculum,” says Fraser. 

In what the school thinks is a world first, Fraser spotted the opportunity when he heard of the Energize Otaki Group’s goal to take the town, 1.5 hours away from Wellington, off the Otaki grid. He soon had conversations with Blended Fuel Solutions (BFS is a Clean Tech company), director, Leigh Ramsey.

“Leigh was telling me about blending diesel and water and he convinced me that it wasn’t bad but actually all very viable.

“ I knew we had some amazing minds on our back door step looking at harnessing energy that was safe in Otaki and so I wanted to get my kids engaged into such concepts, especially because they’re the next generation that’s going to be looking after our planet,” says Fraser. 

The collaboration led to establishing a well-adapted chemistry achievement standard that would enable the students to gain NCEA credits from the projects. 

The group of 28 year 12 and 13 students have learnt more than just the chemistry of mixing the right ingredients, they have been educated on what can be done to ensure a cleaner, healthier and greener future for New Zealand. 

The students were able to achieve NCEA Level 2 qualifications within the framework offered by the Ministry of Education’s Vocational Pathways. It is a programme designed for 16-19 year old students that relates their learning to a particular sector or industry. It also provides more choices in how they achieve their NCEA Level 2 qualifications. This is the minimum qualification a young New Zealander needs to progress to further study or work.

“This has given students the practical application they needed to make their learning relevant and inspirational and has put them on a pathway to the future,” says Fraser. 

Making chemistry lessons real

Fraser says such projects have enabled the students to further progress their chemistry skills while also building their confidence and engaging them in the field of alternative petroleum technologies and waste transformation. 

“The kids became very engaged in and excited about the study because it is realistic and they were experimenting with fuel that was helping the environment.

“The project also fits into the idea that we really want to bring our curriculum to life, utilizing it and making it meaningful for our young people.  When you have such people in the community that are so focused, you’d be foolish to not go for it,” says Fraser. 

Fraser’s legacy is for the college to be an ‘energy college’, a place where everyone is energised and leaves the gates with a pathway for life.

Ramsey, who is New Zealand’s foremost expert on Emulsified Fuel and producing ‘fit for purpose’ liquid fuels from local feedstocks, says the students are growing up in a world of ‘recourse depletion’ and environmental concerns never before experienced in human history. 

“Learning about these new types of world technologies offers them greater understanding and a pathway to transition to them,” says Ramsey. 

Science has always been well subscribed to at Otaki, however Fraser says the big catalyst was when the partnership with blended fuel solutions began. 

“It was really apparent that the kids engagement lifted, they loved it, especially when the community heard about it and got involved too, people were excited about what they were doing, the students felt the buzz about being at the forefront of such studies that really helped the environment”. 

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