A team of eight Radford University students will present their water purification research and design project at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's People, Prosperity and Planet Student Design Competition, opening Thursday, April 18, on the National Mall.
The interdisciplinary RU team—Elizabeth Crook, Maddie Ford, James Freeman, Dennis Godward, Jacob Shelton, Craig Slate, Matt Sublett and Bekah Webster—is one of 45 collegiate teams from across the nation awarded grants in Phase I of the program, known as P3. The competition in Washington, D.C., includes well-known institutions such as Cal Tech, Purdue and Stanford nationally and JMU, UNC Charlotte and Virginia Tech regionally.
Led by chemistry Professors Cindy Burkhardt and Francis Webster, the RU team includes geology, biology and chemistry students. They received a $15,000 grant to develop their research during the program's second phase, which culminates in their Sustainable Design Expo presentation.
The objective was to design and develop sustainable technologies that protect people’s health and the environment while promoting economic development. To do so, the RU team developed synthetic humic acid materials to improve water purification capabilities. The project features the students' work in developing an inexpensive, adsorbent material that will improve existing sand filtration technology and remove water pollutants including arsenic and other heavy metals, and organic contaminants.
"To clean water of deadly stuff, we're taking simple sugars and common chemicals, and combining them with sand, a ubiquitous material," said Dennis Godward, a senior chemistry major from Thaxton.
During the event, a panel of scientific experts will judge the projects and make recommendations for a second phase grant of up to $90,000 to further develop the selected designs and prepare them for the marketplace.
"It is really exciting to show what we at RU can do at this level," said Maddie Ford, a junior biology and chemistry major from Forest Hill, Md., "and demonstrate what goes along with studying as an undergraduate here."