Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award

Listening In On the Future

By Andy Miller

EPA's Andy Miller with Patrick H. Hurd Award winner Miriam Demasi

EPA’s Andy Miller presents Miriam Demasi with the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award.

The other day I overheard an amazing conversation between two teenage girls.  “That is so cool!  I have to tell my friend—she’ll freak out!” one of them gushed.  It sounds typical, but what amazed me was what they were talking about—using coal fly ash as a replacement for Portland cement.

Really. This was the kind of discussion one heard among thousands of teenagers at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles, where I was lucky enough to be a judge for an EPA-sponsored award.

The conversation I overheard ended when one of the girls had to go back to her project to talk with other judges, but she rushed off saying, “We’ll be back when we’re done.  We really need to talk more.”  About fly ash, Portland cement, shear strength, Young’s modulus (a measure of material stiffness and elasticity), and admixing accelerants. These were the girls’ words, not mine.

One of the girls in this conversation was a high school freshman from West Virginia, Miriam Demasi.  She is this year’s winner of EPA’s Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award, which is given at the ISEF each year.

Miriam’s project was to create, from wastes, a building material that would be more resilient to earthquake damage than adobe.  She used fly ash and newspaper to create bricks that were lighter than adobe, and she showed, among other analyses, how the strength changed with the amount of newspaper.  Every question we posed to her was answered thoroughly and confidently.  It was clear she knew her stuff.

Miriam’s interests are not just in engineering.  A few years ago, she did a study to see if peoples’ ability to read mirror writing – writing as you would see it backwards, as in a mirror—depended upon whether they were predominantly left-brained or right-brained.  And she’s a soccer player.

Of course, Miriam was not the only one who really knew her science.  The bits of conversation I heard when walking along the posters rivaled those at a professional technical conference.  Here’s just a small sampling:

  • “The extraction method did well.”
  • “It doesn’t require much of an operations staff.”
  • “These use scaffolds of synthetic polymers.”
  • “We connect it in a linear fashion.”

It’s hard to remember these were teenagers, still—or even barely—in high school.  Selecting just one out of the more than 250 environmentally-related projects was not easy.  But it was one of those efforts that gives one tremendous hope for the future.

ISEF Award FestivitiesMiriam’s prize includes a trip to Washington, DC next spring to attend EPA’s National Sustainable Design Expo where she’ll display her winning project along with entries to the P3 (People, Prosperity, Planet) Student Design Competition for Sustainability, giving her the  chance to interact with college students with similar interests in sustainability.

I was fortunate enough to be able to congratulate Miriam personally at the awards ceremony.  I hope you all have the opportunity to meet one of the exceptional ISEF finalists and congratulate them on their achievements.  For those of us in EPA, if you happen to run into Miriam when she’s in Washington, congratulate her and, most definitely, be nice to her.  We’ll probably be working for her before too long.

About the Author: When not serving as an eavesdropping science fair judge, Andy Miller is the Associate Director for Climate in EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy research program. Scientists in that program conduct research to assess the impacts of a changing climate, and to develop the scientific information and tools the nations needs to act on climate change.

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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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

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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Among the Stars

By Verle Hansen

Each year, EPA participates in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with an exhibit booth to share information about how science and engineering support environmental protection. We also sponsor an award—the EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award—presented to a student whose work demonstrates a commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship.

Science Fair opening night.

Among the stars.

I am serving as one of EPA’s judges this year, so I was able to attend the opening ceremonies in Pittsburgh Monday evening. Attending students from around the world contributed greetings in the form of film clips from their home countries.

The short films were a great way to get things started. Two young Danish men merely gave the Intel theme musical “Bum-bum-bummmmm,” making their’s the most unique and memorable.

To me, this short creative gesture was a clear sign that this was an event different from others. This event is not focused on old models, but on new approaches and new ends. Even the Fair’s theme, “Inspired to change our world,” is about the future.

Okay, getting 1,549 teenager scientists and engineers in one room is naturally about the future.

But each time one imagines the future, they have to take the past into account. Pittsburgh itself is a perfect example. Forced to re-imagine and re-create itself after the decline of its primary industry, the community embraced the fact that change was inevitable, but firmly rooted in the past.

It is also the past that gives character and value to place.  But, oh how refreshing to see the future from new minds unfettered by words like “should” and “can’t.”

To simply envision the future that will have to exist to give options and opportunities to future generations is enough to inspire changes in how research is structured, or as one speaker put it Monday night: “…it is not about science, it is about imagination.”

Seeing such energetic, inquiring young minds eager to both incorporate their engineering skills and embrace the concept that people matter, I can’t help but feel that the future is indeed bright. For me, it is hard to imagine how high the future will be for each of these young people, considering that their starting point is already among the stars.

About the Author: Verle Hansen, Ph.D., is a community planner 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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