CRMS grad goes cuckoo for coconuts
October 22, 2006
Colorado Rocky Mountain School graduate Dustin Bowers spent last summer in the Philippines on the beach playing with coconuts. But he wasn’t there to relax, he was there to prove that he could accomplish something.”I went after my dad had spent some time there and told me about the exorbitant amount of coconuts,” Bowers said. “The Philippines have a lot of resources to create biodiesel going to waste; we just decided not to let it go to waste anymore.”So Bowers, 19, spent the summer developing a biodiesel plant. DB Coco Diesel, a privately funded facility in the northern Philippines town of Taytay, Palawan, produces 100 percent coconut diesel fuel for the people living in the region. The plant can produce 150 gallons of fuel per day, and is used to run generators, boats and many of the diesel-powered cars in the islands.”Pretty much anything with a diesel engine can run off this fuel,” he said.The project turned out to be a gift for the Filipinos as well as for Bowers.
“Overall, it was a challenging experience,” he said. “It was frustrating at times but also a very intense challenge.”Despite the frustrations, Bowers never gave up. Working with the Filipinos and teaching them how to run and operate the plant efficiently was an invaluable opportunity.”Working with them was frustrating and amusing,” he said. “There is no such thing as incapability, whether to communicate, effect change or improve one’s status.”This project proved to be a right of passage.”It was sort of a baptism by fire,” he said. “I was really nervous right before I went over there, because I didn’t have all that much experience in making biodiesel.”
He acquired his knowledge at an after-school program during his junior year at CRMS, which examines alternative fuels like biodiesel. Teacher and biodeiesel program coordinator Smith Maddrey remembers Bowers as a unique student.”He had the ability to marry the knowledge of science with the natural world,” Maddrey said. “He had drive and was very much an independent thinker.”The knowledge that Bowers received in the after-school program has been useful.In addition to his interests in alternative fuels, Bowers is like most people who grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley. “I really love skiing,” he said. But, most of all, he enjoys using his mind. “Most of my spare time is spent studying,” he said. He is now in his sophomore year at Reed College in Portland, Ore.
“It’s fun to be in that intellectually cracking atmosphere, with all of these people that are so smart and creative. Sometimes I enjoy thinking of problems to solve, when I’m not thinking of something creative to say,” he said with a slight chuckle.He’s still unsure about what the future may hold for him.”I’m a linguistics major, so I’m going to school to learn more about interesting things,” he said. “I will probably go on to further studies first, but after that I could see myself doing a number of things.”Bowers expressed interest in computational linguistics, teaching and journalism.”Who knows?” he said.Or, he may return to a South Pacific beach to play with coconuts.