By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Professor John Frala
Professor John Frala may look like a mad scientist in this photo, but he received the prestigious Green California Community College Summit’s 2011 Leadership Award in October. He was honored for his commitment to renewable energy. The Alternative Fuels Technician program coordinator, Frala is a member of the Rio Hondo College Faculty Association.
How have you contributed to the greening of the Rio Hondo Community College campus?
I hold low-cost and no-cost workshops for the community and municipalities in our area by tapping into grants and local funding. We have a recycling program in place, and have qualified for a grant to install four charging stations on campus. We’re working with the home energy program to install a wind generator and solar systems.
What are your students learning that will make the world a greener place?
They are learning about our country’s dependence on fossil fuels and how to get the most out of energy usage in our daily lives. I introduce students to how our political system helps fund changes and how to support legislation to help the environment. Students have so much power to institute changes in the environment by example, usage and speaking out.
How do your students make alternative fuels?
The most interesting type of fuel students make is biodiesel from algae. The raw enzyme is placed in a 5-gallon container. Using a small pump, carbon dioxide is fed into the bottle along with compounding the light exposure with a plant grow lamp running on a small solar panel. After 10 days I add baking soda and let it grow. After 18 days I get enough algae to manufacture two gallons of biodiesel in the classroom environment. We have had our failures, but most of the time it works. Students like making oil from fryer oil from In-N-Out Burger because the engines we run smell like french fries.