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:

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.

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