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News Releases from Region 09

Nationally Recognized Student from Cupertino, Calif., Honored with President’s Environmental Youth Award

Contact Information: 
Michele Huitric (huitric.michele@epa.gov)

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that 14-year-old Sanjana V. Shah, of Cupertino, Calif., will receive the 2015 President’s Environmental Youth Award for inventing a network of flow sensors that analyzes real-time data and assesses flood risk in her community. The national award is presented each year to exceptional students who demonstrate creativity, innovation, and leadership to address difficult environmental challenges. 

“Urban floods can have devastating consequences on human life, the environment, and the economy,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA is proud to honor Sanjana’s extraordinary effort to engage in environmental action and better the lives of people in communities throughout the nation.”

“Sanjana’s flood sensor device takes advantage of cutting edge remote and real-time technology, while being feasible and cost-effective for local jurisdictions to employ,” said Debbie Frazier, Science, Math, and Computer Science Teacher for Monta Vista High School. “This project emerged out of a life experience for Sanjana’s family that could be prevented for others. It also has great applications for improving planning and maintenance of drainage systems during non-flooding seasons.  Sanjana is a model for modern youth – it’s so valuable for young people to move beyond just using mobile tech, to developing it and using it in innovative ways.”

As a ninth-grader at Monta Vista High School, Sanjana was inspired to do an independent project addressing community flooding after being stranded with her family in a car on a flooded road. She started by conducting original research, developing a monitoring device, and implementing a pilot project in her own neighborhood. Sanjana used a network of wireless flow sensors in the city’s drainage system to collect and analyze rain and storm water flow data. She later calculated flood risk and demonstrated that community flooding can be prevented both by identifying and fixing the drainage pipe sizes and creating real-time alerts to proactively deploy crews to fix potential drainage openings that could have otherwise caused floods in different parts of the city. 

Sanjana has successfully installed a network of these sensors in her local community, which alert the nearby homes if water levels build up. Sanjana has received national recognition for her work, including being selected as a finalist in the Young Scientist Challenge and the Bluetooth Breakthrough Awards, and a second place winner in the 2015 Cisco IoT World Forum Young Women’s Innovation Grand Challenge. 

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 ten regions are selected for national recognition. Projects are developed by young individuals, K-12 school classes, and youth organizations.

For details on the new PEYA winners, visit: https://www.epa.gov/education/presidents-environmental-youth-award-peya-winners