Pollution Prevention Institute announces winners of student and poster competitions

NYSP2I recognizes top graduate, undergraduate and youth environmental ideas

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Laura Nelson

Two student teams from RIT were among 11 teams from eight colleges competing at the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute’s third-annual R&D Student Competition at Golisano Institute for Sustainability on Earth Day, April 22. The event also included a K-12 student poster competition open to all schools statewide.

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) has announced the winners of its third-annual R&D student competition and inaugural K-12 student poster contest.

Open to colleges and universities throughout the state, the student competition recognized both graduate- and undergraduate-level sustainability projects.

Teams from Syracuse University, Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) earned top honors at the graduate level, while two teams from Clarkson University and one from the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) finished in the top three schools among undergraduates.

Earning the top three graduate-level positions:

  • Syracuse University captured first place for utilizing social media networks like Twitter and Foursquare to identify on-campus buildings that are being overheated, producing data that will help the university to reduce its heat and energy costs.
  • Cornell University placed second for designing an anaerobic digestion system for Chobani’s acid whey and process wastes to produce a biogas that can be converted to heat for the company’s boilers, reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Third place was awarded to RPI students who studied the use of LED lighting as an alternative supplemental lighting system for crop production during winter months, designed to increase crop yield while decreasing energy consumption.

Representing the top three undergraduate winners:

  • One Clarkson team took first place for plans to expand an existing program on campus—the anaerobic digester, which produces energy and fertilizer from food waste—but is underutilized. More recycling will reduce waste and generate energy.
  • UB finished second for its project to raise awareness about the environmental benefits of high-velocity hand dryers over paper towel use, and plans to use study results to further persuade students to choose air dryers instead of paper towels.
  • A second Clarkson team placed third with a program to help students who rent apartments become more economically and environmentally sustainable, including providing a free energy audit and various energy-saving “widgets.”

The K-12 student poster competition winners included:

  • K-fourth grades: Cobbles Elementary School in Penfield, N.Y. (Other finalists were Canandaigua Primary School and York Elementary School).
  • Fifth-eighth grades: Valley Central Middle School in Montgomery, N.Y. (Other finalists included Pelham Middle School and Roth Middle School).
  • Ninth-12th grades: Hudson Falls High School in Hudson Falls, N.Y. (Other finalists were Irondequoit High School and Rochester City School No. 58 World of Inquiry).

“We were very impressed by the innovative ideas from both the graduate- and undergraduate-level teams. Students were greatly inspiring in identifying sustainable solutions for their respective schools and communities,” said Anahita Williamson, director of NYSP2I. “In addition, our first-ever K-12 student poster competition brought together many creative ideas for the different visions for sustainability from grade-school students in New York.”

As part of its Research and Development Program, NYSP2I challenged teams of full-time students enrolled at any institute of higher education in New York State to identify a specific activity at their university or in their community with a large environmental footprint. Teams were then required to design innovative solutions to reduce its impact. Teams competed under the theme “Greenovate NYS” by undergraduate or graduate level.

In all, 11 student teams from eight schools—Clarkson, Cornell, RIT, RPI, Syracuse, St. Lawrence, SUNY College at Cobleskill and UB—displayed their projects and competed for prizes at the competition held at the Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS) at RIT on Earth Day, April 22.

The teams received up to $1,000 for project materials when their project proposals were accepted to the student competition last fall. Student teams exhibited their projects and gave oral presentations to a panel of judges at GIS. The event was open to the public. The prize money was made possible through donations by sponsors, including General Electric Global Research Center, Staples, Xerox, New Pig, Noco Energy, Finch paper, and Rochester Midland Corp. Additional funding for the competition was provided by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) is a partnership between the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), University at Buffalo, and Clarkson University, with a statewide reach. The goal of NYSP2I is to make the state more sustainable for workers, the public, the environment and the economy through pollution prevention. Pollution prevention is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.

Go to http://www.nysp2i.rit.edu to learn more about NYSP2I.