To help celebrate National 4-H Week in 2009, which was Oct. 4-10, Louisiana 4-H members joined millions of other 4-H’ers across the nation in participating in a science and technology project. They made ethanol, one of the most common biofuels in the country. "Every parish received at least one Biofuel Blast experimental kit," said David Boldt
, state 4-H science and technology coordinator. "The kit provided all of the components and instructions for conducting the experiment and is the same kit used across the country.
"Because of this year’s focus on biofuels, we are going to expand the lesson and have students throughout the year make biodiesel. This biodiesel will actually be used to power AgCenter equipment," Boldt said.
To make ethanol, the students must break down the sugars in corn syrup by adding yeast. The chemical reaction will produce ethanol along with carbon dioxide. The lesson will also expose students to other possible biofuel ingredients that grow in Louisiana including sugarcane and soybeans.
"This experiment is an example of how 4-H is focusing on science, engineering and technology. 4-H activities can provide assistance to schools in these areas and improve the educational experiences for those participants," said Mark Tassin
, director of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H and youth development program.
The goal of the emphasis on science, engineering and technology, also known as SET, is to produce more scientists. "The United States is falling dangerously behind other nations in developing its future workforce of scientists, engineers, and technology experts. To ensure global competitiveness, we must act now to prepare the next generation of science, engineering, and technology leaders," according to National 4-H Web site (www.4-H.org
In Louisiana, more than 275,000 students participate in 4-H activities each year. The youth program is administered through the LSU AgCenter and has clubs located in all 64 parishes. Nationally, approximately 6 million young people take part in 4-H.
If anyone is interested in starting a 4-H club in a school or town or becoming a volunteer leader, contact your local parish LSU AgCenter extension office or go to www.lsuagcenter.com/4h.
Craig Gautreaux(This article was published in the fall 2009 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)