Prosperity and the Planet

EPA’s P3 Student Design Competition: Sowing the Seeds of a Sustainable Future

By Lek Kadeli

“The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.” -PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Each spring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides the nation with a glimpse of America’s winning future through our P3 student design competition for sustainability.

“P3” stands for People, Prosperity and the Planet. Working in teams, students and their academic advisors devise innovative solutions to meet environmental challenges in ways that benefit people, promote prosperity, and protect the planet. Through that work, the competition engages the greater academic community and the next generation of environmental scientists and engineers in the principles of sustainability.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Around the Water Cooler: P3 Promotes Student Innovation and Sustainability Science

By Sarah Blau

In Washington, DC this week? Then come on out to the National Mall today and tomorrow, and meet the teams of college students gathering to compete in EPA’s P3 competition as part of the National Sustainable Design Expo.

“P3” stands for People, Prosperity and the Planet. Working in teams, students strive to solve environmental challenges in ways that benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet—all at the same time. P3 competitors are outside-the-box thinkers and continually inspire us with their innovation and ideas.

The competition has two phases. In Phase I, student teams and their faculty advisors submit research proposals for a chance to win seed money to research and develop designs for sustainable solutions to current environmental and human health challenges. In Phase II, winning teams receive additional funding to start developing marketable prototypes of their sustainable designs.

Embry-Riddles Aeronautical University students demonstrate their design.

P3 sustainability projects span the gamut of environmental topics—from air quality to water availability to harnessing solar energy. Since we’re chatting “Around the Water Cooler” today, here is a quick glimpse at just a handful of the water-related 2012-2013 P3 grant recipients:

  • Loyola University of Chicago students are designing a unique green process to treat byproducts of biodiesel production, using a combination distillation and wetlands system to treat and reuse contaminants onsite. Their goal is to make biodiesel production fully sustainable. (Phase I)
  • Working with a university in the Philippines, Manhattan College students are developing a treatment system that uses solar power to remove salt from seawater to produce potable water and is made with concrete from local materials. This work addresses the lack of clean drinking water that is one of the most significant health issues in many countries around the world. (Phase I)
  • University of Florida students are designing a process to “harvest” essential crop nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium from liquid waste while ensuring the final harvested nutrients are free of pharmaceuticals. They expect to produce a cheaper, renewable fertilizer that reduces the costs and harmful impacts of wastewater treatment. (Phase I)
  • Embry-Riddles Aeronautical University students are designing a foldable solar power water purification system that can fit into a backpack for easy transport for use after a disaster that affects the drinking water supply. (Phase II)

For a complete listing of all P3 teams for the year, click here. And if you’re in the Washington DC area, be sure to stop by and say “hi” to these passionate students!

About the Author: Sarah Blau is a student services contractor working on the Science Communications Team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Science Wednesday: Rain and Shine

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Lyndee Collins

What’s that saying? April showers bring… innovation? It’s no surprise rain decided to make its presence this past weekend during EPA’s Earth Day festivities on the National Mall. However, the gloomy weather didn’t stop the 55 student teams from competing in the EPA’s annual People, Prosperity, and Planet (P3) Award competition. The student teams presented sustainable solutions to environmental problems in hope to be one of six winning teams to receive an additional $75,000 to further their designs.

While working the event, I was able to meet the student teams and hear about their exciting research. I was amazed at the enthusiasm and dedication from each presentation. Because every project seemed to be perfect, I sympathized with the panel of national experts who were to decide the six winning teams. The anticipated results were announced Sunday evening.

One of the winning teams was from Drexel University. The students set out to develop a solution to the current problems in the green roofing industry. The team designed a roof system using a combination of lightweight materials that can grow and sustain roof vegetation while reducing the heat island effect and harmful water runoff. Their presentation was truly amazing. Having no science background, I was able to understand the technical language and could appreciate the hard work the team put into their design.

Other winners included students from the University of Illinois who devoted their project to help the residents at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the poorest reservation in the country. The team developed an inexpensive technology based on bone char to remove arsenic and uranium from the groundwater used by the residents who would otherwise be unable to afford clean, safe drinking water. The presentation was very touching and it was clear that the team was dedicated to help the Pine Ridge community.

Not only was I blown away by the quality of the presentations but I gained a sense of pride knowing that my generation was making a difference for our future. Despite the rain on Saturday, It’s clear to me that these student teams shine regardless of the weather.

To learn more about P3 and the winners please visit: http://www.epa.gov/p3/2011winners

About the Author: Lyndee Collins is an undergraduate intern from Indiana University currently working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.