OTTUMWA — When OHS graduate Sam Kramer started his freshman year at Iowa State in fall 2015, he was disappointed to find that all the chemical engineering courses that dealt with bio-fuel were closed to underclassmen. Kramer, who majors in chemical engineering and economics, found his chance in the BioBus club.
He didn’t know it would lead to his appointment to a national organization.
CyRide, the bus service that provides transportation for students at ISU, operates 12 hybrid buses that run on a mix of bio-diesel generated by the BioBus club. Students involved in the program collect cooking oil from Iowa State’s dining halls, and over a period of one to two weeks process about 30 gallons of fuel for CyRide’s hybrid fleet.
After working with the club during his freshman year, scheduling conflicts forced Kramer to step away the following year. Then, due to a lack of interest, the club folded.
Kramer, who felt that the club provided chemical engineering students with valuable hands-on experience, was determined to bring it back.
After pulling together “four to six really dedicated guys,” Kramer and his team set to work restoring the program to its former standing. Because much of the equipment had gone unused for so long, they found much of what they needed to be almost unusable.
“It had been sitting there for so long, sometimes with oil already in it,” Kramer said.
After a semester and a half of hard work, they managed to get the program up and running again, and Kramer was elected president of the club in 2018. In this position he was not only tasked with providing leadership, but also training new members in the biodiesel production process, communicating between students and outside parties involved with production, and ensuring the club maintained all required safety standards.
Because of his efforts, Kramer was selected as one of the new co-chairs for the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, an organization sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board. The organization provides students interested in the field a chance to network with professionals and collaborate on projects.
In early 2019, NGSB sent Kramer and other students to the National Biodiesel Conference in San Diego, where they were able to attend seminars, share their work and network with industry leaders.
Over this past summer, Kramer also accepted an internship at the Prairie City-based Advanced Renewable Technology International, or ARTi. Founded by ISU students in 2013, ARTi produces biochar, a substance that improves yields by reducing soil acidity and improving its ability to hold water. It also has exciting applications in terms of land reclamation, allowing farmers to make use of land previously made toxic by chemicals left over from mining operations or other environmentally-harmful processes.
This type of renewable technology is exactly what excites Kramer about the field of biochemical engineering. He encourages young students to get involved in engineering, and ISU students interested in BioBus can get in contact with the club at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Going forward, Kramer’s goal is just as understated as it is ambitious:
“Keep the world running smoothly.”