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New England Student Designs in Solid Pursuit of Prestigious EPA ‘People, Prosperity and the Planet’ Awards

Release Date: 01/28/2008
Contact Information: Jeanethe Falvey, (617) 918-1020

(Boston, Mass. – January 28, 2008) - Four New England University teams were among fifty-eight national finalists, recently awarded over $500,000 in ‘P3’ grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA). Awards were given based on initial designs for achieving sustainable solutions to environmental issues. Student teams from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Keene State College and UMASS Lowell were recently awarded $10,000 each to put their designs into action and will compete once more among the other 54 teams in April.

Keene State College, N.H.: Students are working to create a “closed energy loop”, where biodiesel fuel is both created and used within the same community. This fuel will be made from waste grease generated within that community and then used to power local public fleets. Biodiesel is a fuel made from either vegetable oils or waste grease and offers promise as a sustainable energy source. While use of biodiesel is on the rise, few communities in the U.S. both manufacture and use biodiesel fuel.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Mass.: One team hopes to harness wind power from tethered kites as a low cost and sustainable energy alternative for developing nations. Two billion people currently live in developing parts of the world without access to electricity. Wind turbines are a possible renewable source, but their high cost and low use potential in less windy regions create steep disadvantages. These students hope that kites will supply environmentally friendly electricity where wind turbines are much less practical.

The second WPI team is working to create a nano-structured material for capturing mercury, arsenic and selenium from the gases of coal combustion. Although coal is not a sustainable energy source such as sun, water, or wind, there is an unrelenting demand for its use in both developed and developing countries. The team hopes to increase the sustainability of coal while aiding in minimizing its environmental impact.

UMASS Lowell, Mass. – UMASS students are developing a "Sustainable Project Dashboard", an easy-to-use software for collecting data and analysis that can measure the performance of a sustainability project. This interactive ‘dashboard’ would help manage a sustainability project, show social, economic and environmental changes and aid in education and outreach.

Winners were chosen from about 100 college teams competing from 29 states across the country. This grant money enables the winning teams to begin to further research and develop their projects for the next stage of competition in April. These 58 teams will bring their working designs to Washington D.C. during April 20-22, 2008 where six finalists will receive EPA’s ‘People, Prosperity and the Planet’, (P3) award.

The National Academies, advisors to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine, will convene a panel to evaluate and recommend the award winners who will be chosen by the EPA. The P3 awards to student teams includes additional funding of up to $75,000 for further opportunity to develop their designs, test them in real-life, and even get them on to the marketplace.

The People, Prosperity, and Planet Award was started by EPA in 2004 as a technical, on-the-ground response to the growing challenges of achieving sustainability in both the developed and developing world. This award program has encouraged with great results, student teams to design and develop projects that:
Benefit People by providing healthier living environments
Promote Prosperity by developing local economies and creating small businesses, and
Protect the Planet by conserving natural resources and minimizing pollution.

Through this national competition, college students take the lead on innovative scientific, technical and policy solutions to sustainability challenges. Their designs will help achieve the mutual goals of economic prosperity while providing a higher quality of life and protecting the planet. Current environmental, economic, and social issues are strongly considered in this award process. Support for the competition includes over 40 partners in the federal government, industry and scientific and professional societies.

More information: EPA's P3 Awards, including the current designs in progress and the competition (

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