Prosperity

Saving Energy and Money: Go Team Go!

Cross-posted from “It’s All Starts with Science”

Introduction By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

We know that a strong economy and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand. That’s why, today, we announced that 21 small businesses in 14 states are receiving funding from the EPA to develop and commercialize innovative, sustainable technologies to address current environmental issues. Read more about one recipient, also a former winner of our agency’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet award, whose company is challenging kids to get involved and spurring competition to lower energy consumption in schools.

By Lek Kadeli

Spirited competition between local schools is a time honored tradition. From the football and soccer teams to the debate club, nothing beats taking on your arch rival to spark school spirit, get the neighbors talking, and build community pride.

That spirit of competition has helped schools here in the District of Columbia save more than 76,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, thanks to Lucid—an EPA-supported small business started by previous winners of the agency’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award.

The schools vied to see which could most dramatically reduce their energy consumption as part of the three-week “Sprint to Savings” competition. The DC Green Schools Challenge set up the competition to help schools conserve energy and save money while “engaging students in real-world learning opportunities.”

To monitor their progress and take action, students used Lucid’s “Building Dashboard,” a software program that monitors a building’s energy and water consumption in real time and presents that information in easy-to-understand graphic displays on computer screens or other devices.

Students were able to use Building Dashboard installed at their schools to gauge their progress in 15-minute intervals and help the school take corrective action, such as switching lights off when not needed, shutting down unused computers and monitors, and turning the heat down after hours. A District-wide leader board helped them keep an eye on the competition.

The idea for a data monitoring display system begin when the now principal partners of Lucid were students at Oberlin College. In 2005, their prototype won an EPA P3 Award. The P3 program is an annual student design competition that supports undergraduate and graduate student teams to research and design innovative, sustainable methods and products that solve complex environmental problems. Since then, there’s been no looking back!

Today, we are thrilled to announce that Lucid is among 20 other small businesses—including two other former P3 winners—selected to receive funding as part of the EPA’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. The program was designed to support small businesses in the commercialization as well as the research and development of technologies that encourage sustainability, protect human health and the environment, and foster a healthy future. Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, and SimpleWater, LLC are the other two former P3 winning teams.

Thanks to Lucid, Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, SimpleWater, LLC and the other innovative small businesses we are supporting today, winning ideas are bringing products to the marketplace that protect our environment while sparking economic growth. I’ll bet that even arch rivals can agree that’s a win for everyone.

About the Author: Lek Kadeli is the Acting Assistant Administrator in the Agency’s Office of Research and Development.

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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My Confidence in Future Young Scientists

Crossposted from “It’s All Starts with  Science”

By Thabit Pulak

I watched as the young students of Magnet Science and Technology Elementary poured the sand and rocks into their soda bottles. The kids were learning how sand water filters work, and making their own mini versions of the filter. The interest and pride the kids took in making their filters gave me confidence that the next generation of Americans would apply the same degree of care and attention to important environmental issues, such as water quality.

The students were taking part in “enrichment clusters,” sessions in which they learn about one important public issue in depth. I was invited by 2nd-grade teacher Ms. Claborn to visit her cluster on water purification and to present a real-life example of a water filter.

I had recently worked to develop an affordable filter that removed not only bacteria and contaminants from water, but also arsenic, a poisonous substance that affects nearly 150 million people across the world today. I had the opportunity to present my water filter at the 2012 Intel International Science Fair, where I won 3rd place and EPA’s Patrick J. Hurd Sustainability Award. The Hurd Award included an invitation to present my project at the annual National Sustainable Design Expo, which showcases EPA’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) program.

I presented the filter to the class and answered questions, learning just as much from them as they did from me. I was invited to stay for the remainder of the cluster, where the students were putting final touches on their own water filters. Ms. Claborn gave each of the students some muddy water to run through the filters. It was exciting for me to see the children’s smiles as they looked at the clean water slowly trickling out of the open edge of the soda bottle after traveling through the sand and rocks. The filters were based on a water filtration activity that EPA designed specifically for students.

Afterwards, I was invited to attend the upcoming STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) exhibit that the school was hosting. The students’ mini filters would be on display, and I was invited to display my filter alongside theirs. As the stream of curious parents and students came in, I gladly talked about both what the students did and my own filter, and what this means for the future of environmental sustainability issues like water.

This was my first opportunity to present my work outside of my school and science fairs. I felt very honored and happy to be able to give something back to the community. I hope to find ways to keep doing so!

About the Author: Guest blogger Thabit Pulak of Richardson, Texas was the winner of the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) 2012. As part of this award, he was invited to attend and exhibit at the National Sustainable Design Expo, home of the P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability in Washington, DC. He was also the recipient of the 2013 Davidson Fellows Award.

 

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.

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Women In Science: Women’s History Month – New Generation, New Innovation

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

By Lyndee Collins

In honor of Women’s History Month, I felt it was appropriate to honor a woman who is a distinguished innovator and inspiration to students like me. Last Monday, I had the honor to speak with Amy Mueller, co-founder of STG International and 2008 EPA People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) Award winner, where we discussed her recent achievements, her P3 experience, and her life as a young scientist and entrepreneur.

In the 2008 P3 competition, Mueller and her team introduced the Solar Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), a system combining mirrored solar panels and an engine that converts the collected heat to electricity. The system is both affordable and a sustainable alternative to the common diesel generator. The design requires only readily-available, low-cost parts, such as those used in the air conditioning industry, making it ideal for encouraging development in difficult economies.

Though Ms Mueller and her team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) continue to refine their design, their idea has already changed. Since 2006, Ms Mueller and her team have installed and tested several generations of prototype systems across Lesotho, Africa, where they have trained local partners in the design and construction of their system. Their most recent prototype, installed at a clinic in the Berea district, provides larger quantities of electricity and water to meet the needs of the medical staff as they serve 50-80 patients per day.

Ms. Mueller loves that her education has provided her the opportunity to help others. She views science and engineering as powerful tools for making a difference in the world. Her advice for young women interested in science is to be interdisciplinary – learn about multiple fields of science to help you work better in a team on big projects – and try to find an inspiring mentor who can give you support and advice.

After speaking with Ms Mueller, I am particularly looking forward to this year’s P3 competition, April 15 – 17 on the National Mall. The event will take place during the EPA Earth Day celebration, where 55 new teams will compete for P3 Awards just as Amy did three years ago. The public is invited to engage the student teams, hear about their exciting research, and meet the latest generation of women out to change the world.

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.

Cooling Down Heat Islands in Your Neighborhood Cuts Energy Costs

This coming weekend, my fellow students and I will be on the National Mall in Washington, DC to exhibit our award-winning P3 (People, Prosperity, and the Planet) project—developing white, reflective roof coatings.

Our research aims to develop new materials for building surfaces that have low solar gain—surfaces that do not absorb much of the sun’s energy. The ultimate goal is to understand how to develop common building materials that exhibit low solar gain characteristics.

The roof coatings we’ve been developing are designed to reflect visible and infrared radiation, cutting down on heat gain, which in turn would cut energy costs and mitigate the “heat island effect” that makes urban areas significantly hotter than nearby rural areas.

Heat islands pose an increasing risk to the environment and contribute to higher energy costs in urban centers, especially during peak demand times.

It is especially important that city planners and municipalities understand how the balance between built surfaces and vegetation can achieve a lower heat “footprint.” Then, they can use zoning laws, which have the power to affect building practices across the country, to prevent the heat island effect. I’d like to see zoning laws updated to account for energy and environmental factors—such as heat islands—rather than for form and appearance. My team’s research could help inform such innovative zoning laws.

Our work with roof coatings and the Drexel Smart House aims to provide information and potential strategies for mitigating heat islands through alternative roofing systems such as cool roofs and green roofs,  (which have the added benefit of reducing storm water runoff, too).

About the author: Eric Eisele is a graduate student studying Materials Science and Engineering at Drexel University, and is a member of a P3 Phase II research team developing cool roof coatings. Eric and his team will be at the National Sustainable Design Expo and P3 Award Competition in Washington, DC on April 24-25.

Editors Note: Come see this and other innovative designs for a sustainable future at the 6th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall, April 24 -25.
For more information and directions

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.

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