Miamisburg Student Wins Governor's Thomas Edison Award

Jul 24, 2020
Originally published on July 24, 2020 4:11 pm

A local high school student has received the Governor’s Thomas Edison Award for Excellence in Alternative Energy Research.

Ethan Elking is a senior at Miamisburg High School. For his science fair project this year, Ethan wanted to find out if small gas-powered engines -- like the ones you find in lawn mowers or heavy-duty weed wackers -- could use cleaner fuels than gasoline. So Ethan made a slight modification to a weed wacker, and tested the performance of three different cleaner fuels compared to a weed wacker that used regular gas.

“I used a treadmill motor as a generator and made a little structure out of the treadmill frame to attach a weed whacker to the generator motor, and run power from that to a space heater with a set resistance." Elking says, "You just measure the amps and electrical power and calculate that with the resistance of the space heater, and get the watts, and that's the power of the weed wacker.”

Ethan tested ethanol, propane and denatured alcohol.

He found that the ethanol — or E85 — had the best performance — even better than gasoline. 

And it emitted less greenhouse gases, too. And get this: Ethan says that with minor modifications, you can convert pretty much any small engine you have at home to run on ethanol instead of gasoline.

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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