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Posted 08/03/05 • By Laurel Stavis
After covering more than 10,000 miles of highways and byways across the continent in a vegetable oil powered vehicle, the 15 Dartmouth students of "The Big Green Bus" (BGB) team came back to Hanover on Friday, August 5. Their odyssey or, as one team member described it, "the Cockamamie Scheme that became a Reality," began four years ago on the sidelines of an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Maine. Cold, tired, worried about graduation, they were struck at the same moment with the same idea: go on a road trip to demonstrate the joys of Ultimate Frisbee and the possibility of turning tons of waste cooking fat from restaurants into a viable fuel source.
It was a daring adventure that took shape during the courses of their studies at Dartmouth. Supported by the Thayer School of Engineering and the College's Department of Environmental Studies, they bought a used yellow school bus, stripped it down inside and out and rebuilt its engine to run on stale vegetable oil. Along the way, BGB members pursued other interests as well. They did independent research in pressure sensing technology for vehicular uses and rocket imaging parts, maintained the Appalachian Mountain Club's hut at Lakes of the Clouds on top of Mt. Washington, sang with the Dartmouth Chamber Singers, did a photo study of a homeless artists' community in San Francisco and conducted Permaculture research in Lesotho. They did thesis research on dialect evaluation, music and language, Yosemite National Park, and built houses with Habitat for Humanity.
According to BGB's mission statement, "...fifteen Dartmouth students conceived of The Big Green Bus as an effort to spread information about alternative fuels and environmental and social responsibility through the Ultimate Frisbee community...A simple and plentiful resource fuels [our] bus. We refine and reuse the waste oil, shaping society's waste into social energy."
Three months ago as the bus rolled out of Hanover to embark on its transcontinental tour, the team received a letter from Dartmouth President James Wright. "I am one among the many at Dartmouth celebrating your creation," he wrote. "As a group you exemplify all that we hope our students will do and be...You build upon Dartmouth's historical concern for the environment, our long tradition of advocacy for responsible and respectful stewardship of our natural resources - and our skills in Ultimate Frisbee!"
The now-legendary bus chugged back into town and parked on the Dartmouth Green on Friday, where team members talked about the trip, the technology, the vision and tossed a few plastic disks through the summer air.
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