The cooperative provides University of Washington students with the unique opportunity to combine green energy management with engineering innovation. Built and driven entirely by undergraduates, the group promotes interest and education in the field of green energy engineering by engaging students in a rich learning experience. All members proactively meet on a regular basis throughout the school year and engage in activities that prepare them for future careers in the green energy field such as running diagnostic tests, designing processes from the ground up, applying for funds and grants from outside institutions, running tests to ensure that the product is safe, and paying attention to the economics of their process so that it is financially sustainable.
Currently, the new lab space project project involves the all the Biodiesel Cooperative, composed of an executive committee of six people, with around 10 general members. Each member’s involvement is voluntary, and Cooperative members belong to varying disciplines inside the University of Washington. Membership is predicted to increase based on student response from Dawg Daze promotions and attendance at general meetings, however current positions have been limited due to our lack of physical lab space. With a new lab in place, membership, research and managerial roles are also expected to increase to provide more opportunities for student involvement. The current responsibilities of each executive committee member are described below.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the face of the organization. It is the job of the CEO to manage the financials of the Cooperative, act as a mentor to the general members and maintain responsibility for the overall direction of the Cooperative as a whole.
The Chief Operations Officer (COO) is in charge of administering all committee meetings. Every week, the various members of the executive committee congregate to report on the events of the previous week, discuss next steps, and assign action items. The COO is also responsible for connecting the engineering and logistics divisions, and performing interior management whenever necessary in order to keep the Cooperative organized.
The Internal Chief Relations Officer (CRO-I) is responsible for managing all connections within the University. This person maintains communications between HFS, Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S), Capital Projects, ASUW, and all other UW organizations that are involved in the welfare of the Cooperative. The CRO-I co-leads the logistics department along with the CRO Ambassador.
The Ambassador Chief Relations Officer (CRO-A) is responsible for managing connections outside of the University. This includes a variety of organizations, from biodiesel companies and fuel distributors, to high school classrooms and even other universities. The CRO-A co-leads the logistics department along with the CRO-I, and is also responsible for all public outreach and education endeavors.
The Chief Technical Officer (CTO) is responsible for managing all of the engineering divisions of the Cooperative. This person performs strategic technical management, makes long term decisions for lab work and manages engineering agendas, suggesting next steps for the engineering teams to pursue. The CTO works closely with the Lab Director to ensure that teams follow proper safety procedures.
The Lab Director (LD) provides tactical management within the lab. This person manages the day-to-day operations in the lab, including reviewing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to guarantee safety, communicating with EH&S about safety precautions, and monitoring the chemical inventory of the lab.
Despite the responsibilities of the executive committee members, the heart of the Biodiesel Cooperative lies in the education and participation of the undergraduate students that make up its general membership. These general members help with day-to-day task and operations, and often accompany more experienced members on outreach trips and presentations to local high schools. In addition, all general members work closely with one or more executive committee members on their personal group responsibilities, and provide essential footwork and fresh ideas to the group as a whole.
Establishing a working biodiesel facility on a college campus is not an impossible task; several successful biodiesel cooperatives currently exist on college campuses across the country. However, many attempts at establishing them in other universities have failed, primarily because the students who were involved with it end up graduating and new students do not emerge to take their place. The UW Biodiesel Cooperative aims to avoid this problem by focusing their efforts on green engineering education, and encouraging the growth of new students within as a means to provide a sustainable organization that prepares students for careers in the green energy industry. Additionally, our small group mentorship strategy ensures new members are properly trained and qualified to replace their predecessors. As a testament to this, despite all of the original founding members of the Cooperative having graduated in 2012, the amount of involvement in the Cooperative is very strong and growing, and this interest will grow even further once a fully operational lab space has been constructed. The Biodiesel Cooperative is a unique opportunity for undergraduate students, as it provides a glimpse at what a career in the engineering field is like, specifically that of renewable energy. By supporting the UW Biodiesel Cooperative, the Campus Sustainability Fund can help make a tangible difference by educating future leaders in sustainable engineering and equipping future young students with the skills they need to succeed in their careers.