I have long been interested in ways to protect the planet, as I felt as though with the development of science and through the means of technological development, there is an enhanced level of carbon emissions and pollution as a result of such technological developments and not enough effort is focused on the development of technology that could alleviate such pressure from our environment. Therefore, as my personal goal, which I did through the medium of my MYP personal project (accomplished in 10th grade), I decided to generate ethanol (that is considered a much more energetically efficient and less damaging fuel for our environment as compared to its fossil fuel relatives due to the fact that we are not adding more carbon into our environment and that the fuel for engines burn more completely with the presence of ethanol infused into the preexisting fuel) from waste products in a school setting. However impossible this goal seemed for me without the needed knowledge in chemistry or biology, I decided to do some research by running through many ways I could generate ethanol in a school setting. After consulting an expert, Mr. Kim Young Tae (who works in an executive position in a Korean biofuel corporation and “clean gasoline” promoter, KNC) on his opinion as well as doing some research by myself, I came to the conclusion that it would be most effective to use food with starch in it to remove the starch and to convert it into ethanol using a simple process of alcohol fermentation. After trying out with different starch-filled fruits and vegetables, I came to the conclusion that it would be most effective to use banana peels to generate ethanol within a school setting. As the initial goal I had set for myself was to find a process of generating biofuel in a school setting, I was able to accomplish my goal of finding a method to extract 22mL of ethanol from 2 banana peels.
The planning process towards my goal followed the initial brainstorming of what I wished to accomplish through the means of my personal project, followed by processes such as creating specific criteria for what I wished my final product to look like:
The brainstorming outline that I created initially as a part of the planning process towards my final goal.
The product TSC that I created when I initially began the task.
“The above is the TSC that I have created in order to evaluate my final product and how well it was created. Yet, in order to describe the TSC in more detail:
- “The product must be visually interesting”
The final product will be measured in a way in which there is a checklist concerning all of the feedback I have received concerning what makes an interesting machine aesthetics wise from my peers. The list is as follows: transparency, intriguing in its functions, simplicity, creativity, high tech, modern in its mechanical parts, intricate, and lots of moving parts. Therefore, the number of things that the product has incorporated out of the 8 things will be directly implemented into the TSC to give me a value for this certain strand. So for example, if I was able to make my machine transparent, intriguing and simple, but nothing else, I would get a 3 for that strand.
- “The product contains __ functioning parts and is unique”
This strand is a very self explanatory one as the product must contain a number of functioning parts (as requested by many of my peers when asked “what makes an interesting machine?”) in order to be referred as a machine, and these parts must look unique in the context it is presented in within my machine. Therefore, the more parts there are that are unique and functional within the machine, the more highly the machine will score. Yet, on the other hand, if the machine does not have a lot of functioning, unique parts, it will not score very highly in this strand.
- “The product is interactive in __ parts necessary”
This strand is in reference to a feedback that I received from one of my experts that a machine is much more appealing to people for a longer period of time if it includes interactive parts in which it requires an operator to do a simple action which would help the machine work. This, according to my expert, increases the amount of interest that the audience would have to my machine as it functions in a way in which the person will be playing a role in the creation of the final product, giving the product more meaning to the individual and therefore, staying in their memory longer. This strand, therefore calls attention to placing interactive aspects into the machine in the necessary parts. This may mean that the machine includes one or more interactive aspects in the necessary parts that seem to have importance in a way, although there is not much to it. Simple actions such as placing the banana peels and leftover fruit into the machine could be considered one of these aspects. Although the general requirement is that in order for the machine to receive the highest mark for this strand, all of the different machine parts must include at least one interactive aspect.
- “The product produces __mL of ethanol per banana”
This strand is in reference to the technical aspects of the banana ethanol creation which was concerning the actual production of the final product through the mechanism. Therefore, I would be testing the amount of banana ethanol that the process would generate in order to test how efficient the mechanism is in its most crucial role. Although I cannot test with an actual machine (as I would not be building one in real life), I will be testing this amount of ethanol through the complete manual copy of what would occur in the process. Therefore, through such an experiment, I will determine how much ethanol is produced and how efficient the mechanism is.
Furthermore, the reason why the cost aspect is highlighted in purple is because it was originally in the TSC in my most earlier versions, but is something that I changed over time to be eliminated after determining that such an aspect would be very hard to calculate, especially when using a mechanical dryer and electric blender in order to facilitate the creation (and furthermore, how hard it would be to evaluate the economic input value when the machine created will retain many more electrical appliances, and therefore, would be hard to evaluate as the input economical value for the manual reenactment of the machine would be different to that of the virtual machine). Therefore, I decided that that would be eliminated from the final documentation of my TSC.”
Photographs of the process of generating ethanol
Here is an excerpt from the essay that I wrote as a final piece concerning this project:
“Here are the facts; In 1961 the River Cuyahoga of Ohio state caught fire due to mass industrialisation. This was a great problem concerning the world’s environment, and spurred large movements concerning its preservation. Yet, how much have be progressed concerning the protection of our environment from there?
To give an answer to this question, we haven’t, and it is our duty to change this.
My personal project was about generating biofuel out of waste products. There are two major benefits concerning this project. Firstly when ethanol is mixed into the gasoline that could be placed in conventional vehicles, it reduces the amount of carbon monoxide and smog produced. Furthermore, when large countries such as the US and the UK try to implement regulations concerning the usage of ethanol on a larger context, they take away valuable landmass from farmers of countries such as Guatemala in order to implement large plantations for sugarcanes and corn. Yet, what my project focused on was the creation of biofuel using waste products such as banana peels in order to generate ethanol. Therefore,my project on a whole could potentially reduce the conflict concerning landmass dedicated to fuel while tackling environmental issues at the same time.
By creating biofuel, I addressed the issue of waste treatment and less greenhouse gases produced from burning fuel. In conclusion, I promoted a way of keeping our habitat clean while sustaining a similar quality lifestyle. And this, is what I have achieved through my personal project.
The global context of my Personal Project was Globalisation and Sustainability. This global context focuses on the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities, the relationship between local and global processes, how local experiences mediate the global, the opportunities and tensions provided by world-interconnectedness, and the impact of decision-making on humankind and the environment. My Personal Project relates to that certain Global Context the best as I am proposing a way in which to promote environmental sustainability of the world through the development of a system which would reduce the amount of producing both less carbon monoxide as well as greenhouse gases. Although this project may also be relevant to scientific and technical innovation, I felt as though it affects the aspect of environmental sustainability much more heavily, and therefore, have selected that as my global context.
I had always been interested in the idea of using pre-existing materials to generate energy or other wasteful products. So, when the time came for that I had to select a topic for my personal project to focus on, I decided to do something related to generating interesting forms of energy.”
Looking back on the project, I realise that there were many things that I did not take into consideration due to limits in my extent of measurement such as the level of energy input the process of generating the fuel required. Therefore, if I were to refine the process of reaching my goal, I wish to synthesise such information and factor that into the efficiency analysis of the process and try to find alternate methods of generating the fuel from the same base source but in a more energy efficient manner.
The following is a reflection that I wrote from directly after I had completed my investigation:
“My project has enhanced my learning by far in many different ways. Although the impact was not very large as my project had originally set out to inspire people to generate environmentally-friendly fuel out of waste products rather than to take away valuable land from those in LEDCs such as Guatemala, I made my point concerning both the preservation of our environment without putting socio-economic restraints on farmers clearly. Furthermore, if my plan was further developed, it could potentially reduce the amount of carbon monoxide produced on a larger context of Japan as Japan is a great consumer of bananas and if all of the peels from the bananas consumed are placed into this system, around 203,680,000 L of ethanol could be produced annually for public usage. I also think that my project, if further publicized, could potentially inspire others to develop systems which could generate ethanol out of waste with greater efficiency, aiding the sustainment of our valuable planet Earth.
Over the course of my project, I realised the different problems involving energy generations and seeking for alternative ways of making fuel for the human society. Before I started the project, I had a lot of questions concerning why scientists focus more on the branches concerning exploration and gathering knowledge but not on cleaning up the mess that we have made over time. As I was fully aware that the technology of the world is very advanced in current day, I had been upset that not a lot of effort is put into looking for alternative ways to generate more environmentally beneficial fuel as “most of us in the richer societies can only recall times of immediate access to abundant energy” (Green). Yet, throughout the course of the personal project, I gained further insight into the idea that it is very hard to generate fuel as we are already a very fossil fuel based society and that it is very hard to present an alternative energy source that could completely turn over the scene that fossil fuels have set within our human society. “Fossil fuels have created the political and economic landscape we recognize today” (Appendix F), and therefore, it is very hard to break the human society out of the fossil fuel based lifestyle. Similarly, before properly starting my project, I hadn’t realised the downside of biofuel. Although I was aware that implementations of biofuel within our conventional society was a struggle in many different ways, I hadn’t considered the landmass that would be taken away in large quantities from farmers in LEDCs. I was further not aware of the gravity of the debate concerning whether it was truly a good idea to implement fuels such as ethanol due to the arable land that it could be used to generate consumable crops in.
As an IB learner, I have grown a lot through the process of the personal project. Firstly, I best demonstrated the thinking skills as my project required me to do a lot of work concerning thinking both critically and creatively, and later transferring this information into the form of my final product. One major example was a time when I did several different experiments with different types of bananas. This allowed me to do some prior research concerning the different ripeness of bananas and how sweet it tastes when consumed, aiding me to think critically, then later coming up with the different independent variables I could potentially test. Then, out of the results that I have obtained I decided which of the variables produced the best results and took of note of that in order to implement into the creation of my final product. Secondly, I have improved the most concerning the self management skill as I kept to the timeline concerning my experiment schedule and created plans which I kept over the time given (Appendix H). Furthermore, before this project, I didn’t believe in the idea that failure could lead to greater success, but throughout the project, I learned that if it weren’t for all the mistakes that I made in the process of the experiment, I wouldn’t have been able to create the successful product I created, and therefore, I gained a lot of resilience and self-motivation throughout the create phase of this project.
If I were to do my project once more, I would manage my time a little better near the start of my project. Although this was not necessarily possible for me during the summer break (as my project required a lot of chemicals and other scientific apparatus), my project would have been more successful if I started the experiments as soon as I got back from the summer holidays as that may have improved my results. Furthermore, if I could do this project again, I would implement steps that could potentially raise awareness to my project. Also, if I were given more time, I would try to calculate the economic aspect (which I couldn’t focus on during the course of this project) of the fuel further.”
I believe this project as a whole has been rather eye-opening for me as a learner, as it allowed me to gain true insight into the global perspectives behind technical, scientific experimentation. In the case of this experiment, through my initial goal of generating self-sustainable fuel sources in a school context, I learned more about the global issue concerning land dispute for agricultural goods used for fuels and consumption. I believe this enhanced view has allowed me to become a more open-minded learner in accepting that many subject areas are connected to one another in very interesting and intricate ways. Furthermore, this project came as quite a challenge for me when initiating the project, as the science behind biofuels had not necessarily been something that I had prior learning experiences concerning. Therefore, I believe the research process that I took in terms of this particular experiment was a good learning opportunity for me, as it taught me how to do a lot of more targeted research into various aspects of the specific subject, whether it was the sociological or scientific approach to generating biofuel.