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Veggie-powered bus road-trips across America

posted Monday June 9, 2008

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center will host the Big Green Bus June 18, 2008, as it stops in Chapel Hill, N.C., to visit the hometown of its education coordinator, Elysa Corin. Corin, along with 11 other Dartmouth College students and recent graduates, will be part of the fourth Big Green Bus crew to spend its summer road-tripping across the United States in a leaf-green, 37-foot long, vegetable oil-powered bus.

The mission of the Big Green Bus is to promote education and discussion about environmental responsibility, global energy issues and to show that alternative fuels are available for use right now.

The Big Green Bus and its crew will roll into Morehead’s parking lot at 9:30 a.m., June 18. From 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the crew will give public tours of the bus, explain how its engine works and provide information comparing the energy use of an SUV versus a hybrid vehicle.

In addition, Chapel Hill’s children museum Kidzu, the UNC-Chapel Hill physics and astronomy department, the University’s Sustainability Office and Morehead will be offering an array of activities related to energy and sustainability. Kidzu’s activities and craft will be suitable for children ages 3 to 8, while the other organizations will provide activities for the general public.

To accompany the outdoor activities, Morehead will present special showings of “Today’s Chemistry, Tomorrow’s Fuels,” “Science LIVE,” and “Heat Wave.” “Today’s Chemistry, Tomorrow’s Fuels,” at 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., is a “Science 360” presentation for ages 10 and older that examines how chemistry can help meet our future energy needs. Presented at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., “Science LIVE!” is an interactive program for ages 5 and older that encourages the audience to participate in experiments that demonstrate motion, energy, and chemical reactions. “Heat Wave,” at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., is another “Science 360” presentation for ages 8 and older that examines global warming.

The Big Green Bus will leave briefly at 3:30 p.m. and then return at 7 p.m. for the crew’s final presentation, an interactive show designed for ages 10 and older, in Morehead’s NASA Digital Theater. All of the presentations provided by the crew of the Big Green Bus will be free of charge.

Entirely student run, the Big Green Bus began in 2005 when 15 Dartmouth ultimate Frisbee players decided to road-trip from Hanover, N.H., to Seattle, Wash., in a re-engineered school bus. They had two goals: to inform people about the viability of alternative fuel and to spread the word about ultimate Frisbee. Now it has grown into an annual student-led project with aspirations to change the way that Americans think about their energy and their lifestyles.

Elysa Corin is a Chapel Hill native and a former Morehead Planetarium and Science Center employee. Corin began working for Morehead during the summer of 2002 when she was 16 and has worked at Morehead during breaks from Dartmouth. “I feel like I have grown up with the center. Some of the UNC students that have been my co-workers are some of my closest friends today, and the full time staff are like my family,” said Corin.

Corin graduated from Chapel Hill High School in 2004 and went on to Dartmouth where she majored in physics. After finishing her undergraduate work at Dartmouth, Corin is returning to Morehead with the Big Green Bus to share the love of science education that she discovered while working at Morehead. “I'm headed to graduate school soon to pursue an advanced science degree -- I'm taking a year or two break in between -- but I hope to one day come back to develop programs for a science center like MPSC,” said Corin.

The Big Green Bus is a student-run organization headquartered at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. The 2008 Big Green Bus is sponsored in part by Burt’s Bees, Timberland, Changents, Newman’s Own, Inc. and Waste Management, Inc. For more information, visit or e-mail