On Oct. 7 youth in every state and territory across the country participated in the 2009 4-H National Youth Science Day. Waldo County had the state’s highest participation levels of youth reporting their results and, as a result, received a $400 award from John Deere to use towards science, engineering and technology programming.

What did 4-H’ers do? They made their own biofuel during the 2009 4-H National Science Experiment, Biofuel Blast. The focus was discovering how ordinary household products can create alternative energy, and how our nation can use that knowledge to offer energy alternatives to power many of the things we use each day.

This experiment explored the production of the biofuel ethanol. It is typically made in the United States by converting the starches from corn kernels into the sugars in corn syrup, and then adding yeast to break down the sugars, which releases carbon dioxide and ethanol as byproducts.

Thousands of youth reported their results nationwide after completing Biofuel Blast. The gases were collected in balloons. The average balloon circumference after 10 minutes was eight inches, which then increased to 10 inches after an hour. The largest balloon reported came in at 21.5 inches. David Schofield, a Waldo County 4-H leader said, “The kids were really excited to see how some of the balloons got bigger than others.”

Even more impressive, more than 70 percent of the youth said participating in 4-H National Youth Science Day made them more interested in science. This was echoed by local 4-H members who said, “This is neat to see happen.” Others observed differences, “The yeast and sugar experiments worked better than the crushed-up wood chips.”

For more information about the 2009 4-H National Science Experiment, Biofuel Blast and the upcoming 2010 experiment, visit 4-h.org/NYSD. For more information about local 4-H programs visit, umext.maine.edu/Waldo/4H.