"Wood to Wheels" - Research Experience for High School Teachers in Sustainable Transportation Technologies


Sustainable Futures Institute
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931

Phone: 906.487.3612
Fax: 906.487.2943
e-mail: sfi@mtu.edu

Jenn Coury loading electrophoresis gels in Dr. Joshi's molecular biology lab at MTU.

Student created graphs from data tables in scientific articles for Lesson Two.

Student grown soybeans treated with RoundUp (left) and untreated (right).

RET Research poster by Jenn Coury and Robbie Olson (download larger image on right).




Bioenergy & Genetically Modified Plants: Applications of Bioengineering

Teacher Infomation:Jenn Coury

Lake Orion High School: Biology, Environmental Science, Scientific Inquiry


Unit Overview:Students are introduced to the Wood-to-Wheels concept, where wood is being used as a source for biofuels.  Students will investigate whether tree crowns are a sustainable source of bioenergy by analyzing evidence in a peer-reviewed scientific article.  They will also determine if soybeans have been genetically modified utilizing several modern biological research methods including: DNA extraction and purification, Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Gel electrophoresis, and bioinformatics in the laboratory.

Target Grade Level: 11 and 12th grade, Advanced or AP Biology, Environmental Science, Scienitic Inquiry

Download Unit Outline

Download Unit Timeline

Download RET Research Poster

Access Plant Transformation Research Prezi

Lesson Plans:
Lesson One: How can biomass structure and cellulose degradation be optimized for biofuels?

Students will be introduced to the Wood-to-Wheels (W2W) concept through a PowerPoint lecture.  W2W is a research project that aims to reduce carbon emissions by using wood as a source for biofuels; scientists are working to understand biomass structure and how cellulose is broken down to optimize the ethanol produced.  The PP covers biomass, biofuels, and the three parts of the W2W process (Woody Biomass Resource Research, Bio-processing Research, and Engine and Vehicle System), focusing on Woody Biomass.

Download Lesson One Plans

Download Lesson One PowerPoint

Lesson Two:  Are tree crowns a sustainable source of bioenergy?

Students will read two scientific articles (a peer-reviewed and simplified version) on using tree crowns as a source of bioenergy.  They will then analyze the evidence given to decide if tree crowns are a sustainable source of energy.  This lesson is designed to introduce students to reading (and understanding) a peer-reviewed scientific article.

Download Lesson Two Plans

Link to Download Article: How Now Round Cow (simplified) from Natural Inquirer

Download Article: Energy trade-offs (peer-reviewed)

Lesson Three: How Can Genetically Modified Foods be Detected with PCR?

Using the Carolina lab Detecting Genetically Modified Foods with PCR, students determine if soybeans and a food of their choice is genetically modified.  Concepts covered include: the relationship between genotype and phenotype, forensic identification of genes, methods for producing transgenic crops, and the movement between in vitro (in lab) and in silico (on a computer) computation. Students will have the opportunity to utilize several modern biological research methods including: DNA extraction and purification, Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Gel electrophoresis, and bioinformatics.

Download Lesson Three Plans

Download Lab Manual from DNA Learning Kits/Carolina

Download Lab Manual with teacher notes

Download Paper Clip PCR from Connecticut's Biobus

Download Results and Discussion Assessment

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