Converting soybean oil to biodiesel, using common household items, was a science project that Shayla entered in the Iowa State Science Fair for 7th Grade, earning her a second place finish.
Shayla also received an award from the Discovery Channel for her ability to explain her science project and an invitation to apply to compete in a national competition in Washington D.C. She received a trophy which is currently on display at the Cherokee Middle School.
"It was really a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Even if I hadn't won any prize, I would have gotten a lot of benefit from this," Shayla said.
Angie Creel, CMS science teacher, is proud of Shayla and the two other CMS students who took science projects to state competition this year.
Creel noted that representatives of the Discovery Channel view projects at state fairs and invite a select few to go through the process of applying for national competition. Their selection is entirely independent of the selection for state honors at the science fair.
Shayla began her research on biodiesel by contacting Raccoon Valley Biodiesel. She met several times with Terry Argotsinger, a seed capital investor at Raccoon Valley Biodiesel. He showed Shayla a power point presentation on biodiesel and went shopping with Shayla and her mother for the items needed to make the biodiesel fuel. It was even made in Argotsinger's kitchen.
"Shayla is a joy to work with. She was very curious and she was enthusiastic about entering the science fair," Argotsinger said.
Shayla not only made the fuel but conducted tests to determine the physical properties of her product. She mixed the biodiesel both with #1 diesel and #2 diesel and tested both mixtures for the ability to flow after being exposed to cold temperatures.
The mixtures worked as well as the #1 and #2 fuels did by themselves.
"Mr. Argotsinger was a big help. I couldn't have done what I did without him," Shayla said.
She plans on studying physical science in college with an emphasis on chemistry and mechanical engineering. She may become a teacher.