Biodiesel Project by Sparta Education Foundation Produced Fuel for School District Vehicles

June 13, 2014 at 1:56 PM

SPARTA, NJ-The Sparta Education Foundation  funded a grant at Sparta High School to convert cooking oil into biodiesel, a renewable by-product that can be used as an energy source.  The school district has already been using the biodiesel to run select vehicles including a school bus and lawn equipment.

Students studying many different disciplines at Sparta High School, including Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Science, are currently participating in the biodiesel project.  Additionally, students in the DECA -Distributive Education Clubs of America, a national organization for students interested in marketing and management, used the biodiesel project as a topic at the state competition. All of the participating students have learned a tremendous amount about the use, creation and relevance of alternative energy sources as part of this innovative program.

The students that participated in the biodiesel project are:

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  • Brendan Brusberg
  • Sophia Theilacker
  • Cassidy Walsh
  • Mike Meisel
  • Matt Saba
  • Elizabeth Zanetakos
  • Andrew Thomas

The biodiesel project is coordinated by a core group of high school science teachers including Biology teacher Ken Scognamiglio, Physics teacher Andrew Bickerton and Biology and Ecology teacher Rusty Brown.  These teachers are also involving students in the Recycling and Environmental Club with the biodiesel project.

A sustainable fuel, biodiesel is made from vegetable oil.  The Sparta High School program has completed over a dozen batches of biodiesel, converting waste vegetable oil from local restaurants as well as donations from teachers and students.  The students researched the chemistry underlying the reactions that would be taking place and developed a biodiesel conversion plan.  The equipment necessary for production was designed and built by the students and teachers. 

Scognamiglio said, “The biodiesel project was extremely successful this year.  We effectively converted waste vegetable oil from local restaurants into biodiesel, a renewable energy source.  During this student-led project, the students constructed equipment, ran chemical reactions, and extracted biodiesel from the waste oil.  We are very thankful to the Sparta Education Foundation, without their funding, this project would not be possible.”

Sparta Education Foundation has awarded more than $477,000 in grants to all five of Sparta’s public schools since 2007.  The Foundation is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to engage the entire community in philanthropic giving that strengthens the public schools, supports teachers, and inspires students.  For more information visit



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