When it comes to engineering projects, Templeton High School students are definitely driven.
Jason Diodati’s students have spent the school year converting a 1984 Mercedes Benz 300 to run on biodiesel — used vegetable oil collected from local restaurants and processed into fuel.
They’ll show off the car — as well as radios, robots and other alternative energy projects — at Saturday’s San Luis Obispo Mini Maker Faire, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Mission Plaza in downtown San Luis Obispo. Hosted by the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art and other organizations, the free, all-ages event showcases do-it-yourself innovators and their contributions to science, engineering and the arts.
Diodati, who’s in his first year teaching engineering and physics at Templeton High, says his students appreciate a hands-on approach to education.
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“They tell me that they’re having so much fun they don’t feel like they’re learning,” he said, “but at the end of the year, they’ve learned a lot.”
Diodati said the biodiesel conversion project was funded via a $6,400 grant from the nonprofit Templeton Education Foundation. The car, in turn, will be auctioned off at the foundation’s Sept. 21 fundraiser at Castoro Cellars in Templeton, with proceeds benefiting future engineering projects at the school.
“My goal is to invite students to get their own cars and convert them,” Diodati said.
According to Principal Andrew Cherry, it’s all part of Templeton High School’s ongoing campaign to expose students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The STEM Certification Academy, which starts next school year, will offer Templeton High students the opportunity to explore those fields more thoroughly.
STEM Certification Academy participants can either stick with general STEM curriculum, including biology, chemistry and physics, or choose to focus on specific “strands” such as computer science, health careers, mechanical engineering or molecular sciences. They then have the chance to participate in a yearlong senior research project or internship.
“We want kids who are really passionate about a subject to pick a group of classes that keeps them excited through school,” explained Cherry, adding that the list of strands may eventually expand to include agricultural science and engineering, mathematics and the humanities.
About 10 Templeton High teachers will participate in the STEM Certification Academy, Cherry said. So far, about 60 students have applied to enroll in the program, which is open to incoming sophomores, juniors and seniors.
“Kids nowadays are looking to have a defined goal,” Cherry said. “They want a purpose, and I feel like (the program) is giving them that purpose.”
In addition, he said, STEM certification will give students an extra edge upon graduation.
Through the STEM Certification Academy, Diodati said, “We can help students be more competitive in the job market and more competitive in college.”
For more information about the STEM Certification Academy, contact Andrew Cherry at 434-5888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Inquiries about purchasing the biodiesel car should be directed to Jason Diodati at email@example.com.