Is it possible to use natural gas to power a car?

Students of the Carbon County SHINE Career Academy know first-hand that it is.

They are working with technical and academic teachers at Carbon Career & Technical Institute in Jim Thorpe to learn about a motor engine and convert it to run on compress natural gas. This project is just one of the many activities students learned to help show them careers of the future while teaching math and science skills.

Rachel Strucko, coordinator for the Career Academy, explained that the children are excited about the project because they are getting to see how the natural gas conversion process works by actually completing the conversion themselves.

Currently, the students are working with Hal Resh, a technical teacher at CCTI, to convert a diesel engine into a natural gas engine.

To help with their lessons, Barry Wentzel, technical advisor for UGI Utilities Inc., recently visited the afterschool program to talk about the benefits of using compressed natural gas; the types of vehicles that can use natural gas; and the money that can be saved.

He explained that the benefits of compressed natural gas include being a clean fuel, found in abundance in America, and its affordability.

With the discovery of Marcellus Shale and natural gas pockets in Pennsylvania, Wentzel noted that natural gas producers estimate that there will be at least 100 years of natural gas available in large quantities.

He also pointed out that the United States are just beginning to get into the natural gas industry.

A total of 120,000 natural gas vehicles are currently used in the United States, making up only 1 percent of the 13 million natural gas vehicles worldwide.

He also illustrated a mix of math and science lessons during his presentation, showing how a natural gas fuel system operates in a vehicle; and then how much a person will save in the long run if they used a natural gas vehicle.

Following the presentation, students took Wentzel into the automotive classroom to show him their project.

Wentzel also visited the Computer Animated Design department, where students were working on designing and constructing a model house with the lowest carbon footprint using a variety of materials.

In addition to UGI, Blue Ridge Casting; as well as other companies are scheduled to speak to the students about careers of the future.

The Carbon County SHINE Career Academy began in 2011 through a partnership between Lehigh Carbon Community College and CCTI, as a way to bridge the gap in the LCCC SHINE Afterschool Program model. It allows Carbon County students in grades six, seven and eight, to look into jobs of the future through hands-on projects; while building on their current academic skills.

The programs are funded through a $630,000 Department of Transportation grant.