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EPA Launches Engineering Award

Competition aims to boost awareness of need to design sustainable products and processes

by Stephen K. Ritter
January 5, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 1

People, prosperity, and the planet. These are the "three pillars of sustainability" that give rise to the Environmental Protection Agency's new P3 Award program, a national competition that will provide grants of up to $10,000 for as many as 50 teams of students to research, design, and develop sustainability-based projects.

The P3 program was initiated to aid in the training of the next generation of scientists and engineers, who will need to meet the ongoing challenge of developing new products and processes while at the same time protecting the environment and conserving natural resources. The competition was launched during a reception held last month at the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, D.C.

Applications are now being accepted for the program, which is open to undergraduate and graduate students at U.S. colleges and universities. The first grants will be made by EPA next fall, and the money will be used by the student teams during the 2004–05 academic year. The teams are encouraged to be as interdisciplinary as possible, drawing representatives from multiple engineering departments and departments of chemistry, architecture, industrial design, social sciences, and business. The projects are expected to cover water quality and usage, energy production and usage, green chemistry and engineering, biotechnology, information technology, and more.

In spring 2005, each team will take their design to Washington for a final competition in which a panel of judges convened by the National Academy of Engineering will select the P3 Award winner. Annual winners will be able to apply for additional funds from EPA to match contributions from partner organizations in any effort to further develop the project and move it into the marketplace. Overall support for the competition comes from more than 30 organizations in the federal government, industry, and scientific and professional societies, including the American Chemical Society.

The P3 Award program was announced at the reception by EPA Assistant Administrator for Research & Development Paul Gilman and National Academy of Engineering President William A. Wulf. "There is nothing more essential in moving toward the long-term goal of sustainability than teaching the next generation of scientists and engineers how to incorporate sustainability principles into their work," Gilman said.

"It's not enough to have a good engineering design," Wulf added. "This competition will take the brilliant ideas of some of our best students and turn them into usable projects that benefit people, prosperity, and the planet."

The P3 program is being touted as the "next step" beyond P2 , which is EPA's pollution prevention program. Fundamental to the success of any sustainable design are relevant social, economic, and environmental considerations, which are key for the P3 Award, noted environmental engineer Julie B. Zimmerman, an EPA staff member who put the P3 program together. Information on applying for a grant is available on the Internet (


ES&T Focuses On Green Engineering

A special issue of Environmental Science & Technology that focuses on the principles of green engineering was celebrated last month at a reception at the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, D.C. The reception was held in conjunction with the announcement of EPA's P3 student engineering design competition.

Zimmerman (left) and Anastas codified green engineering concepts.
Zimmerman (left) and Anastas codified green engineering concepts.

The ES&Tissue, published on Dec. 1, 2003, was highlighted by Jerald L. Schnoor, the journal's editor and a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, and by Paul T. Anastas, an organic chemist who is assistant director for the environment at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.

The special issue stems from a paper published inES&Tlast March in which Anastas and environmental engineer Julie B. Zimmerman, now an EPA staff member, formulated the "12 Principles of Green Engineering" [Environ. Sci. Technol., 37, 94A (2003) ; C&EN, July 21, 2003, page 30].

Spearheaded by Anastas, theES&Tissue includes feature articles and technical papers on topics ranging from greener carpeting and building materials to environmentally friendlier oxidation and hydroformylation reactions to engineering education. The papers use the 12 Principles of Green Engineering as a platform to consider design strategies and life-cycle analysis for products or processes that have a lower impact on the environment than existing technologies.

"The future is going to be largely what we design it to be," Anastas said. "Will the future be one of continued challenges from shortages of water, depletion of finite material and energy resources, and degradation of the environment, or one of effective and efficient systems that bring about concurrent environmental and economic prosperity for societal benefit? The role of engineers and designers on all scales--molecular, products, processes, and systems--is going to be central and essential in determining what tomorrow will look like."


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