The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded seven universities in the southeast with the People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Phase I grants for the 2011-2012 school year.  Nationally, the grants were awarded to 45 teams of college and university students across the country.  The teams will design creative solutions to sustainability challenges in the developed and developing world.  The P3 grants challenge students, working together on interdisciplinary teams, to design and build sustainable technologies that improve quality of life, promote economic development and protect the environment.

The 2011-2012 school year awardees are:

  1. Clark Atlanta University – Designing genes for bacteria that will produce lignin-degrading enzymes in plant cell walls to more efficiently produce the renewable fuel bioethanol.
  2. Appalachian State University – Developing an artificial wetland suitable for recycling of graywater from small businesses for immediate reuse.
  3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Creating and implementing a point-of-use disinfectant for drinking water that is cheap, non-toxic, and effective in reducing waterborne illness in developing nations.
  4. Vanderbilt University – Developing a biohybrid solar panel that substitutes a protein from spinach for rare metals (mined), and is capable of producing electrical energy.
  5. Embry – Riddle Aeronautical University – Designing a foldable solar power water purification system that can fit into a backpack for easy transport for use after a disaster affects the drinking water supply.
  6. Christian Brothers University – Developing technologies to improve energy efficiency in the building envelope of residences in Memphis, TN, that focus on the thermal properties of materials, fire safety, material stability, and cost.
  7. Valdosta State University – Developing an economical and green aquaculture process for the production of pharmaceutical agents, particularly those from the ocean.

The annual EPA P3 competition begins with Phase I grant awards of $15,000 to student teams that then work on projects in a range of categories including water, energy, agriculture, built environment, and materials and chemicals.  After working on the project for eight months, the teams will bring their designs to the 8th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C around Earth Day.   At the expo, the projects will be judged by a panel of experts.  A few teams will be selected for Phase II grants up to $90,000 for students to improve their designs, implement them in the field, or move them to the marketplace.

Applications are being accepted through Dec. 22, 2011, for the next round of Phase I awards for the 2012-2013 school year.  In addition to the categories above, teams can also propose innovative ideas for green infrastructure and designing clean cookstoves.

More information on the P3 Phase I grant awards:

More information on applying for a 2012-2013 Phase I P3 award: