Students Prepare for National EPA Competition

An interdisciplinary team of Radford University students has spent countless hours in laboratories this semester working to design solutions toward achieving cleaner drinking water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) competition announced this week that the RU team is among 40 selected among higher education institutions nationwide for judging in April in Washington, D.C. The competition is part of the National Sustainable Design Expo.

The EPA also announced Tuesday that it has awarded the RU team a $15,000 grant to further its research.

"Our project focuses on the development of an inexpensive, multifunctional absorbent material that will improve existing sand filtration technology to better remove a wide range of water contaminants, including arsenic, other heavy metals and organic contaminants," said Chemistry Professor Francis Webster, the team's faculty advisor.

While the students expect to do well in the competition, the main focus of the research is to develop "an inexpensive and sustainable method to provide clean drinking water in developing countries where contaminated water is often a major problem," Webster said.

students competing in National EPA competition

Participating students are Elizabeth Crook, Maddie Ford, Jim Freeman, Dennis Godward, Elizabeth Hamer, Corwin Johnson, Jacob Shelton, Craig Slate, Matt Sublett and Bekah Webster. Chemistry Professor Cindy Burkhardt is assisting Webster in guiding the researchers.

This is the second time Webster has been the faculty advisor to an Radford University team accepted to this level of the competition. In 2006, his team received an honorable mention among the 60 competing colleges and universities. This year's field includes only 40 teams, including Radford.

Webster's team this year is more interdisciplinary than his first group, which included only chemistry majors. The 2012-13 research group is made up of five chemistry majors, three geology majors and one biology major.

In the spring, all teams in the competition will submit their final reports and proposals, then take their projects to Washington for judging by a panel of experts convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Judging takes place at the annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall. 

At the competition's conclusion, AAAS judges will recommend to the EPA which collegiate teams should receive the EPA P3 Award and the opportunity for the $90,000 Phase II funding, to be used to further develop their projects.

Dec 4, 2012
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7761