Mass. Student Teams Win Grants for Environmental Projects

Boston – Three student teams from Massachusetts are among five teams in New England chosen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to receive up to $15,000 each to pursue projects that deliver sustainable, alternative methods of addressing environmental challenges.

College teams at Bridgewater State University, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and Worcester Polytech Institute were among 42 college teams nationwide selected for EPA’s annual Prosperity and the Planet (P3) student design competition.

Winning teams from Massachusetts include the following projects:

Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater — for Southeastern Massachusetts Student Network for Biodiesel Research and Education. An interdisciplinary group of Bridgewater State University students will apply sustainability and green chemistry principles to examine the efficiency of biodiesel production from waste vegetable oil, identify limitations, and propose potential solutions.

University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Lowell — for Green Nanosolder Paste for Next Generation Electronics Assembly and Manufacturing. This project focuses on developing a green lead-free and halogen-free nanosolder paste by using nanoparticles to replace the conventional solder paste, which is composed of toxic and hazardous materials.

Worcester Polytech Institute, Worcester — for Self-Healing Coatings for Steel-Reinforced Infrastructure. This project focuses on developing, for the first time, self-healing coatings for rebar to create better and more consistent corrosion resistance in infrastructure.


“Epoxy coating is an excellent way to prevent the corrosion of reinforcing steel in concrete, if the coating is in perfect condition,” said Aaron Sakulich, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Worcester Polytechnic institute and principal investigator for the award. “In the field, this rarely happens. Flaws are introduced during handling at the construction site, the handling of formwork, or during the pouring of concrete. Self-healing coatings promise to mitigate the effects of flaws in coatings and increase the service life of infrastructure by repairing themselves automatically, without external input.”

The other New England winners were the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. for a project developing a cost effective and environmentally friendly flame retardant and Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. for its project to re-design pervious concrete to harvest and filter storm water runoff contaminated by organics, nutrients, and metals and convert it to meet drinking water quality standards.

Past P3 teams have used their winning ideas to form small businesses and non-profit organizations. An inter-collegiate team made up of students from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and two Chinese universities launched the nonprofit organization One Earth Design, based on their winning project: a solar-powered device that cooks, provides heat, and generates electricity.

Since 2004, the P3 Program has provided funding to student teams in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, committing over $10 million to cutting-edge, sustainable projects designed by university students. Projects from this year’s teams include sustainable alternatives to address the reduction of traffic congestion in Cincinnati, Ohio; extending the growing season for farmers by heating greenhouses with biomass; and environmentally friendly flame retardants.

Funding for the P3 projects is divided into two phases. In the first phase, student teams submit a proposal for a project, and if they are selected, they compete with other Phase I winners at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C. At the Expo, teams compete for Phase II funding of up to $75,000. This year marks the 11th year for the EPA P3 Program