An official website of the United States government.

News Releases from Region 07

Eastern Iowa Middle School Students Earn 2017 President's Environmental Youth Award for Water Conservation Project

Contact Information: 
Emily Albano (

Environmental News


image of Region 7 PEYA teamOak Ridge LEGO Blasters (click to enlarge)(Lenexa, Kan., Sept. 20, 2018) - Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the Oak Ridge LEGO Blasters, a team of middle school students from Cedar Rapids and Marion, Iowa, have received the 2017 President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). This national award is presented each year to K-12 students who demonstrate the initiative, creativity, and problem-solving skills needed to address environmental problems and find sustainable solutions.

The Iowa team, in grades sixth, seventh and eighth, designed and developed of the “Ecommode Toilet,” which reduces water consumption by 90 percent. The team identified a problem – the amount of water used to flush toilets – and then brainstormed solutions, researched the issue, and consulted with plumbing professionals and engineers in their community to create a prototype that recycles deodorized urine to flush the toilet. They also surveyed 200 engineers, along with school and health care employees, to gather market research that identified informational gaps in public perceptions and have obtained a provisional patent for their unique invention.

“The Ecommode has become the ‘little toilet that could!’ An idea that started as a lark – saving urine to flush toilets – set off a conservation fervor in these students that has culminated in a provisional patent and two environmental awards,” said Team Sponsor Cathy Beke. “Some collected urine and tested chemicals to see which eliminated odors without harming the environment, while others researched pump strengths and urine splash patterns. They've learned about municipal water sources and global conservation efforts.”

Established in 1971, the President’s Environmental Youth Award promotes awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Focused on environmental stewardship, student projects from each of EPA’s 10 regions are selected for national recognition. Projects are developed by young individuals, K-12 school classes, and youth organizations. Sixteen projects are being recognized this year, including projects from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Michigan, Indiana, Texas, Iowa, Colorado, California, and Washington.

The PEYA recipients will be honored in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21, 2018.

# # #

Learn more about the PEYA Program

Learn more about the Environmental Education Grants Program

Learn more about EPA Region 7

View all Region 7 news releases

Connect with EPA Region 7 on Facebook:

Follow us on Twitter: @EPARegion7