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  • [ April 6, 2015 ]
  • Eric Koehlmoos Presents Research at the 2015 White House Science Fair

BY TOMMIE CLARK | IOWA ENERGY CENTER

An award-winning student from South O’Brien Secondary School in Paullina represented Iowa at the 2015 White House Science Fair on March 23, an event hosted by President Obama. Eric Koehlmoos, a senior, was selected to attend by the National FFA Organization after he was named the 2014 winner in Power, Structural, and Technical Systems (Division 2) at the National Agriscience Fair .

Koehlmoos’s research on the conversion of cordgrass and switchgrass to ethanol has also won accolades at the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa . At this year’s fair on March 26 in Ames he took 2 nd place for his project “Grass to Gas: Phase IV” as part of the Iowa Energy Center’s Youth and Energy Scholarship program . This is Koehlmoos’s third year of winning an award from the center, for a total of $10,000 in scholarship money.

Since 1997, the Iowa Energy Center’s Youth and Energy Scholarship program has awarded 77 scholarships worth more than $160,000.

“It’s important to learn about science, because science is going to fuel our world, feed our world; it’s going to impact the world no matter what subject you’re in. You could be in business or history—but either way science is going to impact your life no matter what you do,” said Koehlmoos at the 2014 Science and Technology Fair.

Approximately 100 youths from across the country were chosen for the opportunity to share their work at the White House event. The President took the opportunity to pledge over $240 million to encourage study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The White House issued the following press release for Eric Koehlmoos’s work:

Eric Koehlmoos conducted three years of research with prairie cordgrass and switchgrass to better understand their impact in the cellulosic ethanol industry. Coming from a farming family, Eric has always been interested in the biofuel industry and in the new cellulosic ethanol plants being built near his home. Working with professors at South Dakota State University, Eric conducted experiments with cordgrass and switchgrass, discovering that both grasses produce nearly 200 more gallons of ethanol per acre than corn and wheat straw, two mainstream methods for ethanol production. He also discovered that when these grasses are pretreated with calcium hydroxide, ethanol yields are increased by as much as 80% and byproducts have higher protein values than corn distiller grains. Eric placed first in the National FFA Agriscience Fair and hopes to one day use these grasses to commercially produce ethanol in the Southern Plains, providing a sustainable solution to meet agriculture needs while avoiding competition with the food supply.

“Meet the Exhibitors in the 2015 White House Science Fair.” The White House . N.p., 20 Mar. 2015. Web.

<https://m.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/03/20/meet-exhibitors-2015-white-house-science-fair-1> .

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