By taking the record for the world’s fastest vegetable oil-powered vehicle in 2011 and being awarded the Trail Blazer award by President Kustra in 2012, the Greenspeed Club at Boise State is proving to be a force to be reckoned with.
Greenspeed is a multifaceted club open to Boise State students from all degrees. Dave Schenker, a junior mechanical engineering student, founded the club along with four other students and one semi-hesitant faculty advisor in 2010.
John Gardner, professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, has been the faculty advisor for Greenspeed since the beginning. According to Gardner, he had no personal interest in land speed racing (or this project) other than that it had an element of sustainability in it, which was vegetable oil as a substitution for petroleum-based fuels.
It was Schenker’s dedication and confidence which convinced Gardner to get involved. Gardner explained there were many barriers between where Schenker was, and what he wanted to achieve, and said that the bureaucracy of the university shouldn’t be one of them.
“This is somebody we should be encouraging,” Gardner said. “We should find a way for him to be able to do this. It fits well with mechanical engineering and he (Schenker) clearly has a strong vision for this.”
After gaining approval and with their newly found faculty advisor, Greenspeed was born.
“I started it (the club) to provide an opportunity for my fellow students to connect their classroom education to real world projects,” Schenker said. “Our main project so far has been to build the world’s fastest vegetable oil-powered vehicle and we have been successful in that goal.”
Schenker went on to explain the club is now gearing toward other projects which are less massive and more accessible. Although vegetable oil is a good source of energy, vegetable oil is not a good fuel, according to Schenker.
“We are simply using vegetable oil as a technology demonstrator, showing that this plant based substance, that is completely renewable and carbon neutral, is capable of beating a petroleum record,” Schenker said. “This is what we’re shooting for, we want to eventually beat the petroleum record with vegetable oil and we haven’t been able to do that yet, but we’re inching closer to it.”
This new goal and their new projects, according to Schenker, are in place in hopes of broadening their member base and getting more students involved.
“My original vision was to bring students from all the way across campus together to work on these energy based projects, because they really are multifaceted,” Schenker said. “Sure, there’s lots of engineering that takes place, but no matter how good the engineering is you have to have good communications and marketing people to get that idea out. You have to have good design folks to help convey your ideas — a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Greenspeed hasn’t had many other students involved, but would like to expand with students from every department, which according to Gardner, is of great benefit.
“Anytime we get a chance to augment a student’s education beyond the formal curriculum and do it in a way that’s meaningful in their professional life, also meaningful in society, that’s a great win,” Gardner said. “It’s great for the students and that’s something we, as faculty, as administrators, should be looking for ways to do that.”
Gardner added what this means for the university and the students.
“I think when you have a student club operating at this venue, at this level of competition, setting a world speed record, obviously that’s great publicity for us,” Gardner said. “It shows that our students are the best in the world.”
To get involved check out their website: greenspeed.me or visit the ASBSU site for further details.