The enterprising spirit of the MSMS Class of 2011 refuses to be entertained simply. Rather than fill our recreational time with mainstream activities, we build rafts, rickshaws, rail guns, bridge swings; the list goes on. So when we began planning our senior road trip, we refused to settle for anything less than epic. Simple calculations revealed that the brunt of the financial burden would come from food, housing and fuel. We figured we could reduce food costs by buying food in bulk and cooking meals ourselves, and housing costs by camping rather than hotels. But it seemed that fuel would be a stickler. That’s when Sterling stumbled across an article from Momentum—Mississippi State University’s engineering magazine—about some students who converted a school bus to run off of waste vegetable oil. We’ll just say that the idea stuck.
We immediately began researching the mechanics and legalities of the idea while simultaneously searching for a bus. After several misses of the hit and miss strategy, we finally found “the one.” We drove over 700 miles to fetch a 1990 school bus built on an International 3700 chasis equipped with “AC that’ll turn’er into a meat freezer.” Thanks to a hail storm, our inspection revealed the only major issues to be a couple of balding tires and a few leaky windows. The bus despite being 21 years old had less than 100,000 miles, a beautiful Allison AT540 transmission, and an engine that would make a mechanic drool.
We poured a lot of sweat and ingenuity into the bus from there. At school several friends helped us pull out the seats and the wheel chair lift as well as scrub the inside squeaky clean. From there we drove the bus to the coast to stay at Bobby’s house. We built bunk beds that fold down into couches, installed carpet, and began constructing the fuel system. However, as exams and end of the school year work arose, the bus was placed on the back burner.
It wasn’t until a few days before graduation that the mobile farm idea was introduced. We had already asked several nonprofits if they were interested in sponsoring the project but none were interested. Then when Bobby was talking to Daniel Doyle about possible gap year work, he mentioned the trip. “You know what would be cool,” Daniel brain stormed, “A mobile organic farm.” We’ll just say the idea stuck.
We’ve finally arrived in Oxford to complete the first phase of the project! Come visit us to see our progress, follow the blog and help us out by supporting the project in any way you can!
Be sure to check out our Facebook page and kickstarter campaign to help take us through to completion of the full project! We’d love nothing more than to see this bus serve as a model of sustainable choices, renewable energy and growing your own food for Mississippi school-children to learn from in the years to come as those decisions become more and more important for us all.