Tailor-made internship for University of Idaho student

Biodiesel research: tailor-made internship for University of Idaho student

Smith, Barbara J

Joe Beavers jumped at the chance to do biodiesel research as an undergraduate at the University of Idaho (UI), where he is studying agricultural systems management.

It was a mutual excitement for UI biodiesel researchers because Beavers’ training answered all of their needs for a laboratory assistant. His course and lab work in ag systems management (ASM) supplemented and reinforced his on-farm training and proved to be effective preparation for departmental research project support. The beauty for Beavers was that work could be scheduled around his classes.

For his first biodiesel research experience, Beavers was assigned to the Albertson’s Waste Vegetable oil (WVO) to fuel project. The research specs called for direct burning of a 10 percent blend of WVO and No. 2 diesel in an Isuzu diesel engine. The engine was used to power the refrigeration unit on an Albertson’s trailer. His daily task was to maintain the engine and keep it supplied with blended fuel. When the project ended, he removed the engine from the trailer’s refrigeration unit, dismantling and documenting the condition of engine components after 2,000 hours of operation on the 10 percent WVO fuel. A research report was developed with the findings. Following the evaluation, Beavers put the engine back together and set it up as a trainer for future students.

With his engine experience, and aided by his courses in agricultural machinery systems and agricultural tractor and power units, Beavers was recruited to perform maintenance on the departmental motor pool vehicles, which includes the 2002 VW BioBug and a 1999 Dodge Truck, both running on 100 percent biodiesel. He also maintains a Ford tractor and the department’s forklift.

While performing all of these tasks, Beaver’s fabrication skills were noticed by Jan Boll, an environmental and water professor and researcher in the department. Boll hired Beaver to fabricate tipping buckets for watershed runoff measurements on a federal research project. He went on to add a cooling system to a John Deere combustion simulator used by graduate student Paul Wang to observe the combustion of different fuels in an engine. Beaver also fabricated gas tank holders and filter holders for the installation of the department’s new gas chromatograph.

The list of duties expanded to become multi-faceted for this undergraduate serving an internship in his field of study. Beavers feels he will be leaving the University of Idaho with two degrees – one in ag systems management and one in real life experience, and both equally as valuable. He plans to return to the family farm but also knows that he has the skills and training to enter the agricultural workforce at a governmental or private business level.

Copyright American Society of Agricultural Engineers Dec 2005

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