Biofuel and solar powered cars highlight 4-H Discovery Camp

4-H Discovery Camp prepares the next generation of green scientists.

You may not know it, but biofuels have been around since the first car was developed by Henry Ford. At the start of the 20th century the first Model T’s were designed to run on ethanol and early diesel engines could run on peanut oil. However, petroleum quickly overstepped those two and became the fuel source of choice. Remarkably, 100 years later we still find ourselves asking the same question Henry Ford asked himself during his first inventions, what energy source should be used to power vehicles?

This question is particularly being asked in Michigan as we have access to a variety of natural resources in Michigan and our history is rooted deep in the automotive industry. Michigan State University is a national leader in biofuel research and recently secured $125 million from the U.S. Department of energy to continue its work in the area. It goes without saying that while todays leading researchers are eagerly seeking new breakthroughs, it will be today’s youth, the next generation of scientists that will likely have the biggest impact.

So what are we doing to prepare the next generation of biofuel experts? Let me introduce you to 4-H Discovery Camp! Michigan State University Extension is in its third year of offering this unique five day program focused on exposing and engaging 13- to 19-year-olds in many different areas of alternative energy. From June 24-28 youth will be learning from some of the top researchers and industry leaders in Michigan. This is a hands-on camp that involves youth doing and experiencing biofuel from the field all the way to fuel. Some highlights include:

  • Making biofuel and testing it in an actual diesel motor
  • Designing, building, and racing solar powered cars
  • Collecting data from research fields growing biofuel crops
  • Conducting experiments
  • Touring an ethanol plant, operational wind farm, net zero energy home, power plant, state of the art recycling center, and anaerobic digestion research center, along with fun recreational time like touring the Breslin Center and the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary

If you are interested in alternative energy, biofuel, engineering, natural resources, technology, or even racing cars, this camp is for you! Applications are due April 19. To learn more and to register for camp visit

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