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EPA Honors Three Local Universities for Sustainability Projects; Columbia, Cornell and Stevens Institute Students Score with Green Designs


(New York, N.Y.) Providing clean drinking water for villagers in Ghana and Honduras and harnessing ocean wave energy are projects that demonstrate the promise of sustainable development and the enthusiasm and ingenuity of engineering students from three regional universities. Columbia University and Cornell University in New York and Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey have received Honorable Mention designations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their projects submitted for the 2007 “People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability (P3).”

“The Columbia, Cornell and Stevens Institute students in this competition took their ideas about sustainable design and ran with them,” said EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. “Their projects illustrate that sustainable development is not just a possibility, it’s a reality that can be applied here and in countries around the globe.”

EPA’s program “People, Prosperity and the Planet,” focuses on benefiting people, promoting prosperity, and protecting the planet through innovative designs that address sustainability challenges in the developed and developing world. The competition has two phases. In the first phase, interdisciplinary teams of students competed for grants to support the research and development of their projects. Each of the three honorees had received a $10,000 grant from EPA to support those efforts and the development of prototypes. In the second phase, the teams attended the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, DC at which their projects were subject to peer review. The Columbia, Cornell and Stevens Institute projects received their honorable mention designations at this year’s awards ceremony held recently at the National Academy of University of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

Columbia University’s “Engineers without Borders” is developing a sustainable water management plan for Sakyikrom, Ghana. A new major highway that will soon go through the community and the resulting increased development are threatening an already limited drinking water supply. The Columbia project will stress the importance of implementing sustainable water management practices in this developing community in eastern Ghana.

Cornell University’s project, “AguaClara: Clean Water for Small Communities,” will explore alternative and easily implemented water treatment processes in Honduras. AguaClara is a continuing student project in partnership with Engineers for a Sustainable World, National Rural Water Association, and Agua Para el Pueblo in Honduras. One focus of the project is to reduce the turbidity, or cloudiness, of the local water supply so that community members will see that their water is cleaner and be more willing to shoulder the additional costs necessary to sustain a clean water supply.

The Stevens Institute of Technology students are developing a process to turn ocean wave energy into electricity. While this may smack of science fiction at first glance, the project essentially takes one form of energy, the up and down movement of ocean waves, and converts it to another form of energy, electricity. The electricity is generated by incorporating a cable reel, a magnet shaft and surrounding coil, on a buoy that moves as a result of waves on the ocean surface. This process produces no greenhouse gases and may become part of a worldwide sustainable energy resource.

There were 42 teams in this year’s competition involving over 350 university students and advisors. Six winning and ten honorable mention projects were selected based on creativity and the usability of their sustainability designs. The winning teams represented: Appalachian State University, Lehigh University, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Virginia, and Western Washington University. The other honorable mentions were from: California State Polytechnic University - Pomona, Duke University, Gonzaga University, University of Florida (received two designations), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of New Hampshire.


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