Pollution Prevention Institute announces winners of student competition

NYSP2I recognizes top graduate, undergraduate teams with innovative ideas at Clarkson event

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Ting-Li Wang

RIT team members, from left, Nikita Parbhu, Prashant Paul and Tulsi Chhita share their project with NYSP2I Director Chuck Ruffing during the fifth annual Research and Development student competition at Clarkson University on Earth Day, April 22.

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) at Rochester Institute of Technology has announced the winners of its annual Research and Development student competition, which provides students across the state the opportunity to promote ideas to create more sustainable schools and communities.

Open to colleges and universities throughout the state, the fifth annual student competition, held on Earth Day, April 22, recognized both graduate- and undergraduate-level sustainability projects.

Teams from RIT, University at Buffalo, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Syracuse University, Clarkson University, Vassar College, and State University of New York at Stony Brook competed for the top prizes. In total, $6,000 was awarded.

Earning the top prizes were:

  • Jeff Sama, first-place, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), for his project titled, “Automated Power Conservation and Color Temperature Control.”
  • University of Buffalo, second place, for “One-Step Facile Strategy to Enhance Membrane Antifouling Properties for Wastewater Reuse.”
  • RIT, third place, for “Reusable Packaging System with Insulating and Ethylene-Absorbing Abilities as an Effective Tool to Eliminate Food Wastage.”

“We are so impressed by the innovative research and design ideas that both the graduate and undergraduate teams discover,” said Chuck Ruffing, director of NYSP2I. “This year students created real-world solutions such as how to prevent food waste in grocery stores and reducing energy consumption in the home. The skills and knowledge acquired throughout this year will be highly valuable to our New York state communities, businesses and institutions, as well as to their future employers.”

“I applaud the work of these students to develop innovative solutions to address waste management issues on campus and across the state,” said Basil Seggos, acting commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). “Inspiring the future environmental leaders of tomorrow is an essential part of the success of the Pollution Prevention Institute, and I’m proud to utilize the Environmental Protection Fund to catalyze development of new ideas to address emerging threats to our environment and communities.”

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 choose from the following topics: food waste source prevention in grocery stores; smart home-reduction in energy consumption; or the University Environmental Challenge. Teams were required to design innovative solutions to reduce the environmental footprint within that topic area, competing under the theme, “Great Minds, New Solutions,” by undergraduate or graduate level.

This year’s competition marked the first time in five years that the event was held on Clarkson University’s campus inside its Student Center, including an award luncheon ceremony in the Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP)’s Atrium.

“Clarkson University is dedicated to conducting scientific discovery and technological innovation through our Institute for a Sustainable Environment and it’s a pleasure to partner with other schools and state agencies to promote and encourage research leaders of tomorrow to pursue these goals,” said Tony Collins, president of Clarkson University. “Our faculty are involved in applying technology and interdisciplinary approaches to develop environmentally sustainable approaches to industrial applications through effective public-private partnership.”

In all, 12 student teams from seven schools—RIT, the University at Buffalo, RPI, Syracuse University, Clarkson University, Vassar College, and State University of New York at Stony Brook—displayed their projects and competed for prizes at the Earth Day competition.

The teams received up to $1,250 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. The free event was open to the public.

In addition to the top three schools receiving trophies, the first-place team received $4,000 to share among team members and their adviser; the second-place school received $1,500; and third place, $500. The prize money was made possible through donations by sponsors, including Baldwin Richardson Foods, Wegmans Food Markets Inc., Davies Office, General Electric, Sydor Optics, Potsdam Specialty Paper, Markin Tubing, NOCO Energy Corporation, International Paper, Rochester Midland Corp., Rochester General Health System and Harbec. Additional funding for the competition was provided by the state DEC.

About the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute

Sponsored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute is led by the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology, and is a partnership between RIT, Clarkson University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University at Buffalo. NYSP2I’s statewide reach is supported by partnerships with the state’s 10 Regional Technology Development Centers.

NYSP2I’s goal 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 reusing materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.