The Central States Section of The Combustion Institute awards grants to high-school teachers proposals for developing and introducing a combustion science-based (i.e., applied chemistry) learning module into their course curriculum. Combustion science deals with fast exothermic oxidizing reactions that occur in the majority of energy, industrial, transportation, and fire suppression-based applications. Combustion science is a broad field consisting basically of chemistry, thermodynamics, heat transfer, and fluid mechanics. The CSSCI has four major objectives in supporting this grant award:

  1. to expose high school students to the present and future challenges of combustion science research and development of technology,
  2. to augment high school teachers’ current and on-going efforts to enhance STEM-based curricula,
  3. to coordinate a mentor / mentee relationship between combustion researcher and teacher, and
  4. to invest in the education of potential future combustion scientists and engineers.

Below are descriptions of winning projects of the outreach grant program.

2015: Jason Roberts

Mr. Jason Roberts, Science Department Chair and AP Physics teacher at Kenwood Academy High School (Chicago, Illinois), is the recipient of a $5000 grant to develop combustion science-based learning materials to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning for high school students.

Mr. Roberts’ proposal, titled The Power of Rockets, was reviewed by a panel of combustion science experts from around the country and selected based on its high rankings among several merit-based criteria. Mr. Roberts will develop learning modules that center on specific features of combustion chemistry, such as fuel-oxidizer stoichiometry, adiabatic flame temperature, and the energy release that is required to thrust rocket engines into the air. Additionally, Mr. Roberts will combine combustion chemistry with applied mechanics, so that students learn about linear thrust and rotational motion. Students are expected to first predict, using fundamental calculations, the thrust and subsequent flight height exerted by differently designed rocket engines. Students will then have the opportunity to compare their predictions against evidence-based averages (i.e., actual rocket flights).

Mr. Roberts will work closely with Dr. Marc Baumgardner, a combustion scientist at Colorado State University. Mr. Roberts will be recognized at the 9th U.S. National Combustion Meeting, May 17–20, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

2014: Andrew Schaafs

Mr. Andrew Schaafs, a teacher at Clear Falls High School in League City, Texas is the recipient of a $5000 grant to develop combustion science-based learning materials to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning for high school students.

Mr. Schaafs’ proposal was reviewed by a panel of combustion science experts from around the country and selected based on its high rankings among several merit-based criteria. The general motivation for Mr. Schaafs’ project is to support hands-on engineering design experiences for high school students, by exposing them to the design/build/test/change design process and the use of engineering science tools (math, physics, and chemistry). The specific objective of the project is to expose students to heat transfer via the study the effect of water moisture content in wood on combustion, energy content, and incomplete combustion / smoke generation of cookstoves. Students will be guided through several activities, including discussing (via Skype) the implications of poorly designed / used cookstoves on human health with Jean Ntzinda (principal with DelAgua Health – Rwanda), using cookstoves and “three stone fires” to collect data, building making measurements with a cone calorimeter, building and taking measurements with a heat flux radiometer, and learning about human factor issues related to cookstove use.

Mr. Schaafs will work closely with Dr. John Graf, a research engineer with NASA. Mr. Schaafs was recognized at the 2014 Spring Technical Meeting of the Central States Section of the Combustion Institute, March 16–18, 2014 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

2013: Melissa McCarthy and John Weitlauf

Mrs. Melissa McCarthy, chemistry teacher at William Henry Harrison High School (West Lafayette, Indiana) and Mr. John Weitlauf, engineering design and development teacher at Benton Central Junior–Senior High School (Oxford, Indiana), were the joint recipients of a $5000 grant to develop combustion science-based learning materials to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning for high school students.

Mrs. McCarthy’s and Mr. Weitlauf’s proposal was reviewed by a panel of combustion-science experts from around the country and selected based on its high rankings among several merit-based criteria. Their proposed materials intend to augment first-level engineering students and second-level chemistry students by increasing emphasis on real-world combustion applications, introducing students to rocket-based combustion, and engineering solutions to rocket-based flight.

A major feature of their proposed work is joint collaboration with researchers at Purdue University. The high school teachers are working closely with students and researchers in Professor Steve Son’s research group in the School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University. They are using the funds largely to purchase materials that allow students to engineer combustion-based rocket designs and build the rockets after doing the proper chemical and combustion analysis.

The teachers were recognized at the 8th U.S. National Combustion Meeting, May 19–22, 2013, in Park City, Utah.

Report summary

In January 2013, Ms. Melissa McCarthy of William Henry Harrison High School (West Lafayette, Indiana) and Mr. John Weitlauf of Benton Central High School (Oxford, Indiana) received a grant after competitive review process from the Central States Section of the Combustion Institute. Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Weitlauf proposed to center efforts on increasing the exposure of combustion to second-year Chemistry students and Engineering Design & Development students. As a result of their efforts and collaboration with Dr. Steven Son (Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana), the following activities were completed as part of the grant:

  • October
    • David Reece (Aeronautics and Astronautics Doctoral Student, Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, Purdue University) presented information based on Amateur Propellant Theory and Processing
    • Engineering Design & Development students researched rocket designs.
  • November
    • Chemistry students started small scale tests of reactants to determine the best proportions of the HTPB and AP with the help of Dr. Victor Barlow, a board member of the Indiana Rocketry Club.
    • Engineering Design & Development students continued to research rocket designs and then began the design phase of model rocket fuselage.
  • December
    • Chemistry students continued small scale tests of reactants to determine the best proportions of the HTPB and AP.
    • Engineering Design & Development students continued to design model rocket fuselage.
  • January
    • Chemistry students created cylinders of propellant, manipulating ammonium perchlorate crystal size, aluminum particle size and type and video recorded flame size and duration of flame.
    • Engineering Design & Development students continued to design model rocket fuselage.
    • Engineering Design & Development students began to build model rocket fuselage prototypes and test the prototypes for flight stability.
  • February
    • McCarthy presented preliminary findings of research as a workshop at the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers in Indianapolis, Indiana February 7, 2013.
    • Engineering Design & Development students continued to build model rocket fuselage prototypes and test the prototypes for flight stability.
  • March
    • Chemistry students produced rocket motors at Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, Purdue University.
    • Engineering Design & Development students continued to build model rocket fuselage prototypes and test the prototypes for flight stability.
  • April
    • All students met at Thunderstruck 5 (Indiana Rocketry‚Äôs major launch event) and launched the rockets, with the help of Dr. Victor Barlow! This was an amazing experience for students and teachers, alike!
  • May
    • McCarthy presented grant proposal and findings at the 8th U.S. National Combustion Meeting in Park City, Utah on May 22nd, 2013.

Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Weitlauf intend to continue the combustion-based collaboration in their Chemistry and Engineering Design & Development classes for the foreseeable future and hope to continue making videos of the design processes. They plan to include the launch as a culmination of the research and design process. Launching at Thunderstruck events will also serve as a celebration of collaborative efforts between students in two different school districts.

2012: Timothy McLinden

Mr. Timothy McLinden, chemistry and physics teacher at Catholic Central High School in Springfield, Ohio, was the recipient of a $3500 grant to develop combustion science-based learning materials to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning for high school students.

Mr. McLinden’s proposal was reviewed by a panel of combustion science experts from around the country and selected based on its high rankings among several merit-based criteria. His proposed materials intend to augment his first-level chemistry class by increasing emphasis on real-world combustion applications, introducing students to pre-mixed versus diffusion flames, laminar versus turbulent flames, flame speed dependency on fuels, average chemical formulas for in-use fuels, and determination of combustion-based parameters (e.g., air-fuel ratio) from actual measurements. He used the funds to purchase unconventional instruments for high school chemistry laboratories such as CO2 and O2 probes. Mr. McLinden teamed with combustion scientists at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio to develop the materials.

Mr. McLinden expects the course improvements to increase students’ exposure to real-world applications and enhance their knowledge of applied chemistry and environmental science. He was recognized at the Central States Section of The Combustion Institute’s 2012 Technical Meeting, held April 22–24 in Dayton, Ohio.

Final overview poster Report summary
Project Poster link
[Click image for larger version.]

In January 2012, Mr. Tim McLinden of Catholic Central High School (Springfield, Ohio) received a grant after competitive review process from the Central States Section of the Combustion Institute. Mr. McLinden proposed to center efforts on increasing the exposure of combustion to first-year chemistry students. As a result of his efforts and collaboration with Dr. Vince Belovich (US Air Force Research Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio), the following activities were completed as part of the grant:

  • Heavier emphasis placed on combustion throughout the whole year. This was beneficial since it made the experiential laboratories (described below) and guest instruction (Dr. Belovich, described below) more meaningful.
  • Experiential laboratory on the operation of a Bunsen burner. This was beneficial since it enabled students to understand the concept of combustion as a reaction involving a hydrocarbon fuel and oxygen, with a proper ratio of the two necessary for clean combustion.
  • Experiential laboratory on liquid ethanol combustion. This was beneficial since it enabled to students to visualize the physical processes involved in combustion (e.g., liquid vaporization, premix zone, and flame lift off).

  • Experiential laboratory on magnesium metal combustion. This was beneficial since students were able to see a metal-based combustion (i.e., rapid and exothermic) process as opposed to a slow oxidation process (e.g., iron rusting).
  • Increased practice with balancing equations. This was beneficial since students were able to see combustion as a balanced chemical reaction and have discussions about fuel-lean, fuel-rich, and stoichiometric mixture ratios.
  • Experiential laboratory on measuring CO2 and O2 products from ethanol / air combustion. This was beneficial since students were able to verify their theoretical calculations from balanced combustion reaction to measurements.
  • Guest classroom instruction by area combustion researcher (Dr. Vince Belovich). This was beneficial since the students learned from Dr. Belovich several practical and theoretical aspects of combustion (e.g., parts of a jet engine, laminar vs. turbulent flames, and pre-mixed vs. diffusion combustion), observed demonstrations (e.g., burning of ethanol vs. jet fuel), learned what it's like to have a career / profession in combustion (specifically) and STEM (generally), learned about the importance of combustion, and learned about the future needs of combustion development.
[Full report summary available at link.]