From April 18–19, members of RPI’s chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World attended the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Sustainability Design Expo in Washington, D.C. They were there to compete in the EPA’s P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability.
Held at the National Mall, the competition was the second phase of the P3 competition. The project which ESW presented during Phase 1 involved their orphanage container, which they installed in Haiti last year. The team was one of 40 winners of the first phase and was awarded with $15,000 to fund its project. Phase 2, however, may have as many as five winners or as few as just one winner, due to the national budget sequester. The teams that win this phase of the competition will receive $90,000.
Team member Eric Arntzen ’13 explained that the team’s next project involves helping the locals in Haiti convert containers into orphanages. This way, the locals in question could take containers from locations such as Port-au-Prince, rather than requiring pre-converted containers be shipped from the U.S. Arntzen said that this would cut costs and help keep the process sustainable. Arntzen added, though, that ESW would probably still convert a few more containers for the Haitians during the learning period. The team also hopes to develop a water well with a solar pump for the locals. According to Arntzen, they currently have to walk over one mile to draw water from a river. “There’s no filtration or anything,” he said.
Arntzen and Andrew Chung ’13 said that it was exciting to be at the competition because several groups were working on projects that they could incorporate into theirs. Some teams, for example, had projects regarding water wells and solar pumps—an issue which the ESW members had not quite sorted out at the time. As a result, Chung explained that it would not be a huge problem if the team did not receive the $90,000. He said they received a significant amount of positive feedback. Arntzen added that individuals that visited their booth offered to get the team members in contact with individuals who could help out. “Making those connections was an important part of [the Expo],” he said.
Chung explained that a number of famous people were at the Expo. These included Major General Kendall Cox and Acting Administrator of the EPA Bob Perciasepe. Chung added that it seemed as though certain teams were on a list for these individuals to visit, as the well known guests only visited a number of the booths.
There were also four judges who visited each booth. However, Chung explained that the four split into two groups, so the ESW team presented its project twice. Each presentation was 30 minutes long. The team spent the first half giving its presentation, and the other half served as a question and answer period. “They asked us tough questions, but it made us think about the future of the project,” said Arntzen. Both Chung and Arntzen added that, because of interest in the team’s project and the Haitian music they decided to play at their booth, “there was absolutely no downtime.”
The award recipients have not yet been chosen, but the EPA is expected to release the results soon. For more information on RPI’s chapter of ESW, visit http://esw.union.rpi.edu/ or view their Facebook page at https://facebook.com/ESWRPI/. For more information about the P3 competition or the Expo, visit http://epa.gov/ncer/p3/ or http://epa.gov/ncer/p3/nsde/index.html, respectively. Or, contact the currently ESW president at firstname.lastname@example.org.