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High Schoolers Convert Truck to Soy-Biobased Through Multidisciplinary Learning

The Michigan Soybean Committee partnered with the Gladstone High School automotive class in Gladstone, Michigan during the 2022-2023 school year to convert a Chevrolet S-10 truck to run on biobased lubricants. All five vehicle fluids and lubricants were replaced with soy-biobased products in conjunction with rebuilding the engine of the donated truck. Additionally, the class utilized six soy-biobased shop products, including degreasers and cleaners, during the project. The project incorporated multi-disciplinary learning opportunities by also having the school’s media and technology students document and publicize the project. All students received information about the role of soybeans in biobased production and use.

Products Used: Students replaced the conventional petroleum-based engine oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, gear oil and chassis grease with soy-biobased alternatives. At the project’s completion, students mounted, balanced and installed a new set of Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady tires, which also contain soybean oil, on the vehicle.

Soy-biobased Instruction: United Soybean Board consultant Chris Case, a Michigan resident, assisted the students by helping determine and select products and suppliers. All of the products are commercially available and have been used successfully by U.S. fleets for more than twenty years.

At the beginning of the project, students in both automotive and media/technology classes attended a soy-biobased product orientation presentation that described the farm economy, attributes of soy-biobased products, where soybeans are grown, how soy oil is produced and the variety of products that use soy oil as a base stock. Case provided information on health, safety and the environmental attributes of soy-biobased fleet and shop products. The automotive students used the biobased products as they worked on various elements of the truck. The media and technology students followed the project and received hands-on experience through the preparation of news releases. They also attended a Michigan Soybean Committee communication team presentation that covered communication efforts and the publication of the quarterly Michigan Soybean News magazine.

Student Response: Shop teacher Mark Cousineau reported that it was very exciting watching the project come together. As expected, the project started off slowly, however the pace of the project increased as the semester progressed. It increased significantly towards the end of the project, which is not typical as students near the end of the school year and graduation. Cousineau added that two fathers of the students involved stopped in to give advice, pulled on coveralls and spent an entire day helping the students. Several of the other basic automotive students took advantage of the fathers’ expertise by watching and getting involved. As a testimonial to the impact the project had on the students and to their dedication and perseverance, on the day that they started the engine, the lead student called his mom to let her listen to the engine running and she cried with joy.

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