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EPA Awards Grant to Case Western Reserve University for Innovative Technology Project

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Joshua Singer (

WASHINGTON (March 22, 2018) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced $15,000 for a Phase I student team from Case Western University in Cleveland through the People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) grants program.

Case Western Reserve University’s P3 project is an Ultra-Low-Cost Reusable Solar Disinfection Sensor. Solar disinfection, or SODIS, is a household water treatment technique to reduce the incidence of waterborne disease. A low-cost reusable SODIS sensor would provide users with visual confirmation that their drinking water has received sufficient sunlight. Enhancing SODIS through the development of a sensor would strongly promote SODIS use, and thus promote the consumption of clean drinking water in areas that lack water infrastructure.

EPA announced over $463,000 in funding nationwide for 31 Phase I student teams through the People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) grants program. These teams, made up of college students from across the country, are developing sustainable technologies to solve current environmental and public health challenges.

 “This year’s P3 teams are applying their classroom learning to create valuable, cutting-edge technologies,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This next generation of scientists is designing sustainable solutions that will help protect public health and the environment and ensure America continues to lead the world in innovation and science for decades to come.”

 “EPA’s P3 program empowers students and scientists to put theories into practice,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp. “Winners of these competitive grants should be proud for using their educations to protect the environment and public health.”

"Third-year medical student Sanjit Datta came up with the idea for this project during his first year of medical school," said Daniel Lacks, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. "He built a team of students to work on this and obtained the preliminary results that enabled the team to win the grant. It's a tribute to Sanjit's focus and hard work that he has been able to achieve this on top of his medical-school curriculum."

Funding for the P3 competition is divided into two phases. Teams selected for Phase I awards receive grants of up to $15,000 to fund the proof of concept for their projects, which are then showcased at the National Sustainable Design Expo. The 2018 Expo is scheduled to be held at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, April 7-8. Phase I teams are eligible to compete for Phase II awards of up to $75,000 to further develop and implement their designs. 

Grantees include student teams from the following universities:

  • Case Western Reserve University – Cleveland, Ohio
  • Cornell University – Ithaca, N.Y.
  • Georgia Technology Research Corporation – Atlanta, Ga.
  • Kansas State University – Manhattan, Kan.
  • Kennesaw State University – Kennesaw, Ga.
  • Loyola University of Chicago – Chicago, Ill.
  • Mercer University – Macon, Ga.
  • Michigan Technological University – Houghton, Mich.
  • Montana State University, Bozeman – Bozeman, Mont.
  • North Dakota State University – Fargo, N.D.
  • Oklahoma State University – Stillwater, Okla.
  • Old Dominion University Research Foundation – Norfolk, Va.
  • Purdue University – West Lafayette, Ind.
  • The Sage Colleges – Albany, N.Y.
  • University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa, Ala.
  • University of California, Davis – Davis, Calif.
  • University of California, Riverside – Riverside, Calif.
  • University of Central Florida – Orlando, Fla.
  • University of Delaware – Newark, Del. 
  • University of Kentucky – Lexington, Ky.
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County – Baltimore, Md.
  • University of Massachusetts, Lowell – Lowell, Mass.
  • University of Miami – Coral Gables, Fla.
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • University of Oklahoma – Norman, Okla.
  • University of Southern California – Los Angeles, Calif.
  • University of Texas at Arlington – Arlington, Texas
  • University of Washington – Seattle, Wash.
  • Utah State University – Logan, Utah
  • Wayne State University – Detroit, Mich.

These students, who represent the future workforce in diverse scientific and engineering fields, are following in the footsteps of previous P3 teams. Some of these teams have gone on to start businesses based on ideas and products developed through their P3 project. For example, Sunn began as a team of students from Cornell University that won a P3 award in 2012 to design and test a Fiber Optic Hybrid Lighting system. Sunn now creates energy-efficient LED light fixtures and apps that mimic outdoor light, inside. In 2007, a P3 team from Drexel University developed a Bubble Column Reactor which used fatty acids gathered from grease-trap waste at wastewater management plants to create biodiesel. This technology formed the foundation for Environmental Fuel Research, LLC.

Projects from this year’s P3 teams include innovative ideas like harnessing solar power to disinfect drinking water and using beetles as a way to degrade Styrofoam waste.

To learn more about the projects of the 2017 Phase I winners, visit:

For more information on the P3 Program, visit: