National Sustainable Design Expo

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

 

Reposted from EPA Connect, the official blog of EPA’s leadership.

 

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

 

By Lek Kadeli

KadeliEach 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.

The competition is a two-phase process. In Phase I, teams submit design proposals for a chance to receive grants of up to $15,000 to research and test original sustainability projects. In addition to research funds, winning teams earn the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC to publically showcase their designs and prototypes at the National Sustainable Design Expo.

During the Expo, teams also showcase their work to a panel of judges for a chance to enter Phase II of the competition—which includes up to $90,000 in additional grant money to help bring their designs and products to the marketplace. Successful P3 projects ultimately benefit the economy and create jobs in our communities.

President Obama said in this year’s State of the Union address “that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow.” This program exemplifies that spirit of innovation.

WeLoveP3Over the past 10 years, EPA has awarded more than 550 grants to university and college student teams across the nation. A number of teams have leveraged their winning ideas into thriving small businesses and nonprofit organizations, sparking job growth as they advance sustainability and public health. For example:

  • An inter-collegiate team made up of students from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and two Chinese universities launched the nonprofit organization One Earth Design (OED) based on their winning project: a solar-powered device that cooks, provides heat, and generates electricity.
  • A team from the University of Massachusetts designed a process for producing a nontoxic flame retardant from cashew oil. The end result provides the benefit of suppressing flames that is as effective as the more toxic synthetic retardants in use today.
  • Students from the University of Arizona designed an irrigation system for small farmers that also serves as a fish farm. Rows of irrigation ditches filled with fish provide a local source of fertilizer that boosts crop yields while yielding additional sources of food and profit.
  • Western Washington University students partnered with local dairy farmers for their project using cow manure as a source of fuel-grade methane for running vehicles.
  • Re-design methods developed by a team of University of Tennessee students have helped transform depression-era housing into buildings that meet both energy efficient, green building standards and strict historical preservation codes.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the EPA’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) program. Both the P3 public displays and the National Sustainable Design Expo will be held in conjunction with the USA Science & Engineering Festival at the Washington Convention Center, April 26-27. Now in its third year, the USA Science & Engineering Festival is the largest science festival in the United States.

About the Author: Lek Kadeli is the Acting Assistant Administrator for 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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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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My Confidence in Future Young Scientists

By Thabit Pulak

EPA guest blogger Thabit and friends

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.

STEM in the classroomI 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.

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EPA Recognizes High School Students for Environmental Innovation

PatrickHHurdAward2013Jacquel Caron Rivers and Arne Joi Saguni Nipales win the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award, and will showcase their winning project at the National Sustainable Design Expo in 2014.

Today, EPA recognized the winners of this year’s EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona. Named in honor of EPA employee Patrick H. Hurd who helped establish the award, it recognizes students who demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship.

Jacquel Caron Rivers and Arne Joi Saguni Nipales, both seniors at Baboquivari High School, Sells, Arizona were named the recipients of the award. Their project, “Total Solar Strategy for the Tohono O’Odham Nation,” uses solar oven technology for storing energy and heating the traditional adobe constructed homes used on the reservation. Rivers and Nipales were picked out of 1,611 student scientists and engineers competing in the fair this week.

“The student finalists of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair are finding innovative approaches to the world’s complex problems,” said Lek Kadeli, principal deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “EPA is proud to recognize a project that is addressing environmental challenges in a more sustainable way.”

The EPA Patrick H. Hurd award funds the winning students (and a chaperone) to participate in and display their project at EPA’s 2014 National Sustainable Design Expo. The Expo features EPA’s P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) Student Design Competition for Sustainability. Held each spring in Washington, DC, the National Sustainable Design Expo brings together P3 students, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and businesses that are working to create a sustainable future.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the world’s largest pre-college science competition, hosting more than 1,500 high school students from over 70 countries, regions, and territories. Students advance to it from several levels of local and school-sponsored, regional, and state fairs showcasing their independent research. The Society for Science & the Public, a non-profit organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, founded and runs the fair.

 

Forget about the blue ribbon and $20 gift certificate for the homemade volcano. These kids were bringing some serious science: biochemistry, electrical and mechanical engineering, environmental management, nuclear and particle physics, cellular and molecular biology, and medicine and health sciences—just to name a few.

–Patrick Hurd wrote in his 2009 blog entry about attending the ISEF,  Science is Cool

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EPA’s 9th Annual P3 Competition: Supporting a Sustainable Future

By Dr. James H. Johnson, Jr.

P3 team displays their project this morning at the 2013 Sustainable Design Expo.

As the Director of EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research (NCER), I come across inspiring projects of great depth and innovation on a daily basis. It’s the best part of my job. Together with my NCER colleagues, we build and support partnerships between EPA’s own top notch researchers and the leading environmental and human health scientists and engineers in the world.

This morning, I got to meet the next wave of young scientists poised to join those ranks.

Today marks the opening of EPA’s s P3 student design competition for sustainability. The competition is designed to support and inspire science and engineering students to work together to develop sustainable solutions to environmental and related human health issues that embrace the three P’s of people, prosperity and the planet.

The competition is a two-phase process. In Phase I, teams were selected to receive grants of up to $15,000 to research and test original sustainability projects. This year 42 teams were selected, and over the next two days will be showcasing their designs to a panel of judges for chance to enter Phase II, which includes up to $90,000 in additional grant money to help bring their products to the marketplace.

The caliber of projects I witnessed is astounding, from recycling LCD monitors to creating a water supply to local communities through fog. And you don’t have to be the Director of NCER or a P3 judge to see the projects. The same demonstrations and displays we enjoy are free and open to the public, part of the National Sustainable Design Expo.

Past P3 teams have excelled, engaging local and international communities, and bringing sustainable solutions to pressing environmental and related human health challenges throughout our country and the world. A number of teams have leveraged their winning ideas into nonprofit organizations and small businesses, sparking job growth as they advance sustainability.

EPA’s 9th annual National Sustainable Design Expo is located on the National Mall in Washington DC between 13th and 14th streets, right across the street from the Washington Monument. Displays will continue until 6:00pm Thursday (today), and continue between 9:00am to 6:00pm Friday (April 19).

If you are in the area, I urge you to stop by and see the great work on display. You’ll see why it’s the best part of my job.

About the Author: Dr. James H. Johnson, Jr. joined EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research in 2012 as the Director. In his free time, Dr. Johnson enjoys golfing and learning Tai Chi.

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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Developing a Low-Cost Water Filter

Editors Note: This week we’ve asked members of P3 teams to share information about the sustainable design projects they’ve been working on to showcase at this year’s National Sustainable Design Expo.

In August of 2009, our P3team traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Oglala Lakota Tribe and some 28,000 people. The purpose of our trip was to sample water to see if it still reflected conditions reflected in U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) report from the 1990s that found much of the reservation’s groundwater was contaminated with arsenic and uranium.  Levels of the two contaminants at that time were found to exceed EPA’s maximum containment limits (MCLs).

What we found was in line with the USGS report: 35% of the private wells we tested contained arsenic above the MCL; 6% contained elevated uranium levels. That’s where our P3 project comes in. We are developing a low cost filter that can remove both arsenic and uranium from water.

While there are existing filters that can do the work, they are far from ideal in places like Pine Ridge. For one thing, current filters—primarily based on reverse osmosis (RO) technology—are very expensive. In addition, they require constant maintenance and upkeep.

Our solution looks to provide a cost effective alternative that requires minimal maintenance, can be maintained by local residents, and can spark prosperity in the community. To accomplish this, we’ve developed a filter that uses bone char as its main ingredient.

Cattle bone that is used to make the char is readily available as a waste product on the reservation, and our tests show that our filter effectively removes the contaminants. After performing a life cycle analysis, we predict that after 10 years of use, the bone char filter will outperform a standard RO filter in eight out of nine environmental categories.

The only downside so far is that our current prototype is very large. So, we are now working to reduce the size, which will cut the cost of the filter as well.

While we are working on improving our filter, efforts are underway to inform the Pine Ridge community about the issue of water contamination, and to develop an educational program in partnership with the Oglala Lakota College (OLC) to further understanding of the need for clean drinking water on the reservation.

About the Author: Brett Llewellyn, a student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, is working to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. He wishes to continue applying his coursework towards the efforts of making water clean and accessible to everyone.

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: EPA’s P3: Looking to the Future

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

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.

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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P3: Working for a Sustainable Future

This post in the Science Wednesday series is coming to you early as we prepare for Earth Day activities. Stay tuned to Greenversations for more!

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

For the last seven years, EPA has challenged teams of students to compete for the People, Prosperity and Planet (P3) Award, which includes funding to develop sustainable projects.

Many past P3 award winning projects have grown, sparking full-fledged companies with employees making an impact on our economy as well as our global environment.  For example, a 2008 team from the University of California at Davis developed a process that produces biodegradable plastics from sewage.  Team members launched the company Micromidas a year after winning, have leveraged $3.6 million in venture capital, and currently employ 22 people.

A 2005 winning team from Oberlin College developed a data mining display software system that shows real-time energy and water usage in dormitories and other large buildings.  The team started The Lucid Design Group, which now has 12 employees and has sold their pioneering Building Dashboard Software to hundreds of commercial, civic, institutional, and residential buildings throughout the United States.

And last year, Harvard University along with MIT, Qinghai Normal University, and Tsinghua University won a P3 award for developing a lightweight solar energy device that provides agricultural and nomadic communities in the Himalayas a low-cost, portable means of cooking, heating, and generating electricity. The project spurred the founding the non-profit One Earth Design.

One Earth Design has also been recognized by the Dutch Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, the MIT $100k Competition, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Lemelson Foundation, the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship and the Yunus Innovation Challenge.

Sustainable innovations like these are the environmental and economic future not just for our nation, but the world. They are creating real time solutions to some of our more pressing global issues.

This year, 55 teams of more than 400 students will showcase projects that provide solutions to environmental challenges including clean drinking water, green building, renewable energy sources, sustainable agriculture practices and the manufacture of environmentally-friendly materials and green chemicals. Their solutions, just like those of the last seven years, have broad and worldwide impact—affecting countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Several projects focus specifically on Haiti.

The competition will culminate with final judging during EPA’s 7th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall April 16-17, 2011 as part of EPA’s Earth Day events. The projects are open to the public and can be viewed on Saturday and Sunday.

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry is a science outreach specialist and science communicator at EPA.

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.

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Science Wednesday: Innovations in Food Preservation using my Mother’s Nut Jar

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

By Daniel Liss

On Earth Day, I had the privilege of exhibiting my project—an energy efficient approach to food preservation—at EPA’s 6th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo. I was able to preserve food with a practically negligible impact on the environment.

Using my mother’s nut jar and other household equipment, I invented a device for preserving food that employs a promising, inexpensive new technique that could serve as an alternative to modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), the corporate industry standard. MAP involves displacing the air inside a container with either a single gas or mixture of gases to create an atmosphere that slows the deterioration of food.

Rather than displacing air, my device achieves the same objective with a simple chemical reaction. I apply an electrical charge to carbon fiber positioned inside a container, causing the fiber to burn. The surrounding oxygen reacts with the burning carbon to form carbon dioxide within the container.

In short, the existing air inside the container is transformed into a low-oxygen, high-carbon dioxide, atmosphere—hostile to the kinds of bacteria that are most harmful to food.

Although I was only 15 and my prototype was made from a nut jar, I had the opportunity to test my device at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, which graciously provided laboratory space and funding after learning about my idea during a summer internship.

Based on my test results, I was able to confirm that my device significantly inhibits bacterial growth and also slows the enzymatic degradation of meat. Even more exciting is that it works with just a few pieces of relatively inexpensive equipment, and unlike vacuum packaging, does not crush food, or suck out volatile ingredients such as fats and oils.

My method essentially replicates the benefits of MAP, without the need for sophisticated equipment or large amounts of pressurized gasses on hand. Most importantly, a package atmosphere only needs to be changed once, reducing the need for additives.

About the Author:  Daniel Liss is a rising junior at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. Since EPA’s Expo, he won a gold medal at the International Environmental Project Olympiad (INEPO), in Istanbul, Turkey. Previously, he had won a bronze medal at the International Sustainable World [Environment, Energy, Engineering] Project Olympiad (I-SWEEEP) in Houston, Texas.

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.

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Science Wednesday: 2008 P3 Winner – The Learning Barge

About the author: A winner of EPA’s 2007 P3 sustainable design competition, Danielle Willkens, Associate AIA, FRSA, is the Project Manager of the Learning Barge. She has been a member of the project team since 2007 and holds a Master of Architecture from the University of Virginia.

In 2007, I participated in the EPA’s P3 Design Competition as a student representative for the Learning Barge project, a design/build initiative within the Schools of Architecture and Engineering at the University of Virginia, to create a unique environmental classroom and field station.

Despite months of planning and building, we seemed to have the odds stacked against us as competitors: after spending a night loading a U-Haul with a portion of the Learning Barge’s prefabricated classroom our truck refused to start the morning we were to drive from Charlottesville, Virginia to Washington, D.C to display our project at the National Sustainable Design Expo.

When we finally, arrived rainclouds threatened to drench our exhibits outside of the tent area. Although we had a nerve-racking start to the competition, our P3 ‘ulcers’ were quickly mended a few days later when it was announced we were winners of a Phase II grant.

The Learning Barge will be located on the Elizabeth River, the most polluted tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, and will provide interactive kindergarten through high school, and adult education about how the river and human activities are inextricably linked.

Unlike environmental education centers located in pristine “nature,” the Learning Barge will traverse an important urban river linking Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Moving to a different river restoration site every few months, the Barge will teach participants about the tidal estuary ecosystem, wetland and oyster restoration, and sediment remediation efforts. It is estimated that more than 19,000 students and adults will visit the Barge annually.

The design of the vessel harnesses energy from the sun and wind, filters rainwater and gray water in a contained bed wetland, and utilizes recycled materials and “green” technologies.

Currently, we are just a few short months away from completion, when the non-profit Elizabeth River Project will take over operation of the barge. In anticipation of our launch this summer check us out at: http://www.arch.virginia.edu/learningbarge/.

The recognition we received from EPA’s P3 Competition helped secure several other key grants and awards: an American Institute of Architects Education Award, National Council of Architectural Registration Boards Prize, Waterfront Center Award, United States Green Building Council GoGreen Award, and National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence grant.

Editor’s Note: Winners of the 2009 P3 Design Competition were announced on April 21, 2009.

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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