An official website of the United States government.

News Releases from Region 10

Portland student’s plans to “Disrupt” urban flooding win EPA award at world's largest high school science competition

Contact Information: 
Bill Dunbar (

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the winner of its “Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award” is Adam Nayak, a junior at Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon.   Adam’s project, “Modeling the effects of land use change on flooding in Pacific Northwest streams to promote green practices,” was inspired at an early age when he wondered why fish weren’t coming back to the stream in his neighborhood. 

“EPA is happy to announce Adam Nayak as the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability award winner for his work to educate communities about the environmental impacts of flooding and best management practices,” said Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator. “This award supports the next generation of scientists and engineers to put their expertise and knowledge toward environmental protection."

Adam was selected from among 1,778 student scientists and engineers competing in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles, California this week. His project used historical flood and urban land use data, landscape imagery, geographical information systems (GIS) software, and streamflow modeling developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, to project how severe floods might be in four Portland urban stream basins if impervious surfaces continue to grow at the same pace as in recent years. 

As he learned more about streams and what influences their health, Adam found that many communities don’t always have the scientific information they need to fully inform their decisions.  As Adam put it, “A lot of research rarely gets applied in the community.”

“I feel so incredibly honored to have been selected for this award and cannot fully express my gratitude towards the EPA and all they do for our country,” said Adam. “For the past five years, my work has been centered around my passion for empowering communities and applying research in order to promote conservation locally. I'd like to thank all of those who have offered me guidance, especially Ronda Royal, Kate Fickas, Andy Bryant, and Katie Songer and the Johnson Creek Watershed Council for all of their support.”

“We are incredibly thankful that Adam has this opportunity to present his work to experts in the field,” said Adam’s mother, Alice Nayak. “He has always had a connection to our local stream and has worked tirelessly to understand the challenges we face now and in the future. He is a very self-motivated person and has sought out resources to advance his work. I continue to be amazed and impressed by my son. Thank you for recognizing his potential.”

Another of Adam’s passions is to make sure that science is understandable so communities have more useful, valid information available to make the best land-use planning decisions. In this case, the information is not just that damaging flooding will increase if impervious surfaces continues to increase, but that cities and neighborhoods can mitigate or “disrupt” flooding’s harmful effects by incorporating green infrastructure such as green space, wetlands, and landscape management to reduce runoff and the potential for floods caused by impervious urban surface expansion.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world's largest pre-college science competition. High school student finalists represent more than 78 countries, regions, and territories. Students advance to it from several levels of local and school-sponsored, regional, and state fairs showcasing their independent research. The Society for Science & the Public, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, owns and has administered the International Science and Engineering Fair since its inception in 1950.

The EPA Patrick H. Hurd award funds the student winner and a chaperone to participate in and display the student's project at the EPA's National Sustainable Design Expo featuring the P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) Student Design Competition for Sustainability in 2018. Held each spring in Washington, DC, the National Sustainable Design Expo brings together the P3 students, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and businesses that are working to create a sustainable future.

More information about EPA’s participation in the Intel ISEF:

More information about the Intel ISEF:

More information about EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability: