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Minnesota State Mankato students among winning teams in national 'global challenges' contest
One of 39 EPA grants
Engineering students win global sustainability contest.
By Nancy L. Pontius [published on NewsBlaze Internet news service, 12/18/2008]
A government-sponsored contest is prompting creative solutions to global challenges in agriculture, construction, energy, information technology and water resources to benefit the developed and the developing world.
In November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in its People, Prosperity and the Planet national design competition, awarded $880,000 in grants to student teams representing 39 institutions of higher learning in 23 U.S. states.
The program supports scientific and technical innovations that simultaneously achieve three key goals of sustainability: improved quality of life for all people, economic prosperity and protection of the planet.
"The beauty of the People, Prosperity and the Planet program is that it harnesses one of our most abundant natural resources: student brain power," said George Gray, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Research and Development. "Through innovation and creativity, these student teams turn environmental challenges into opportunities that protect the environment, build new businesses and create new careers."
In the 2008 award-winning projects, students are investigating ways to improve and sustain life for millions. Examples include the following:
- University of Pittsburgh students partnering with Tsinghua University and the Shenyang Institute of Environmental Sciences in China to implement a low-cost treatment to remove arsenic from drinking water in Chinese Inner Mongolia (See "Universities Collaborate to Improve Water Quality in China ( http://www.america.gov/st/env-english/2008/December/20081217120617abretnuh5.016273e-02.html ).");
- Minnesota State University-Mankato students working with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana to develop an inexpensive solar water heater and to investigate the feasibility of producing low-wattage electricity by funneling solar-heated air through a turbine in a "solar chimney" (See "Ghanaian, U.S. Universities Collaborate on Solar Energy Projects ( http://www.america.gov/st/env-english/2008/December/20081217135807abretnuh1.697785e-02.html ).");
- University of California-Berkeley students developing an effective, affordable treatment to remove arsenic from drinking water in rural Bangladesh in partnership with the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (See "Low-Cost Technology Can Improve Health of Millions in Bangladesh ( http://www.america.gov/st/env-english/2008/December/20081217120550abretnuh0.7994741.html&distid=ucs ).");
- Fort Lewis College students in Durango, Colorado, designing biogas stoves that combine a simple cook-stove burner with a biogas digester that creates methane gas from organic wastes for mountain villages in Ecuador, replacing the need for firewood ( See "Innovative System Treats Waste, Produces Fuel in Ecuador ( http://www.america.gov/st/env-english/2008/December/20081217120606abretnuh0.1866114.html ).");
- University of Arkansas students investigating methods to lower manufacturing costs of biodiesel, an alternative fuel produced from renewable vegetable oils and animal fats (See "Arkansas Students Refine Biodiesel Production Methods ( http://www.america.gov/st/env-english/2008/December/20081217120631abretnuh0.4679621.html )."); and
- Rochester Institute of Technology students in New York state designing inexpensive, long-lasting lamps with a solar or human power source for developing countries. (See "U.S.-Funded Project Designs Low-Cost Lamp for Developing Nations ( http://www.america.gov/st/env-english/2008/December/20081217120514abretnuh0.7303888.html&distid=ucs )."
"These projects are good for the environment, beneficial for all countries, including developing countries, and a means for the United States to create jobs," Chris Zarba, deputy director of EPA's National Center for Environmental Research, told America.gov.
In 2007, hundreds of student teams competed for 43 initial phase I grants of $10,000. Winners of the initial grants compete for additional funding up to $75,000 that is awarded to six projects annually. The P3 Award marks the second phase of the competition.
The increased funding allows students to further develop their designs, test prototype models and move them to the marketplace. "Our goal is to bring products to market and not have them sit on the shelf," Zarba said.
Established in 2004, the P3 Award program is funded by EPA and promoted by 42 U.S. partner organizations, including government agencies (such as NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Agriculture), businesses (such as Dell, Nexant, Herman Miller and Hewlett-Packard) and private organizations (including the American Chemical Society, the American Society for Civil Engineers and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences).
Each spring, phase I teams present their projects at the National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, where they compete for the P3 Award.
In 2009, EPA plans to fund approximately 35 phase I grants (up to $10,000 each) and five phase II awards (up to $75,000 each) for further project development.
More information about EPA's P3 Award program ( http://www.epa.gov/p3 ) is available on the agency's Web site.