Science Wednesday: EPA’s P3: Looking to the Future

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By Aaron Ferster

“Green Jobs. Green Economy. Innovation.”

That’s how EPA’s Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe summed up his overall feeling of optimism and appreciation for the students behind the sustainable designs displayed this past weekend at the National Sustainable Design Expo featuring the 8th Annual P3 Competition.

The P3—People, Prosperity and the Planet—competition is an annual event for college and graduate school teams. The competition taps the creative energy of students from across the country to spark innovation and engage them to design, build, and test prototype technologies that offer sustainable, real-world solutions to human health and environmental challenges.

Teams display their work to compete for the P3 Award and funding—up to $75,000—to advance their winning ideas from the design phase to the marketplace or community. Previous winning P3 teams have turned their ideas into successful small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

“Whether your team heads back to school with a P3 Award or not” Perciasepe noted, “everyone here has a great future to look forward to.”

He shared how his sense of optimism stemmed from a look both backward and forward. Looking at recent history, he recalled his own student days: a time when there was still lead in our gasoline, cities were all too often shrouded in smog, and river’s smelled of sewage.

But these challenges have now largely been met. And while today’s environmental and related human health challenges seem even more daunting, the P3 teams show us that there is a new generation of scientists, engineers, architects, and others ready to tackle them.

After an initial peer review process, this year winners were selected from 55 competing teams following two days of judging by a panel of national experts convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Want to develop your own sense of optimism? Check out this year’s P3 Award Winners:

  • University of Massachusetts-Lowell for novel greener routes to halogen-free flame retardant material
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for solar powered water collection, containment and self regulating distribution system
  • Purdue University for development of community power from sustainable small hydro power systems
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Oglala Lakota College for use of bone char for the removal of arsenic and uranium from groundwater at the Pine Ridge Reservation
  • Drexel University for lightweight green roof systems
  • Stanford University for innovative university-school partnerships for renewable energy projects and education

About the author: EPA science writer Aaron Ferster is a frequent Greenversations contributor.