USF Students Earn EPA Sustainability Award

TAMPA, Fla. (April 24, 2009) A team of USF students and their faculty advisor recently received a competitive Phase II Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The $75,000 award was part of the EPA’s prestigious People, Prosperity, and Planet (P3) Competition.  The USF team was one of six selected nationally to receive the annual award.

The P3 Award Competition was held at the EPA’s Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., April 18-20. The USF project is titled “Water Awareness, Research and Education in East Tampa: A Pilot Collaboration Involving USF, Young Magnet Middle School and the East Tampa Community.” 

P3 competition designs and proposals are reviewed by a prestigious panel of scientists and engineers.  This year 41 teams comprising more than 350 university students and advisors competed. Other university winners included: the University of Arizona, Columbia University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Led by USF Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering Maya Trotz, the team consists of: Joniqua Howard, Erlande Omisca and Ken Thomas who are doctoral environmental engineering students; Daniela Soledade, an undergraduate student majoring in civil and environmental engineering; and other members of the USF Chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW). Additional faculty who will assist in the implementation of the project are: Fenda Akiwumi (geography), Trent Green (architecture), and Amy L. Stuart (public health and engineering).

The EPA launched the P3 Award in 2004 to respond to the challenges of the developed and developing world in moving toward sustainability. This national competition encourages university teams to apply technology in innovative ways to tackle global environmental challenges. P3 designs must be economically profitable, and the winners use their awards to commercialize their designs

The USF team will use its award to further establish a collaborative mechanism with Middleton High School, Young Magnet Middle School and Lockhart Elementary School and members of the East Tampa community that effectively raises environmental awareness in the area using storm water ponds as an initial focal point.  Storm water retention ponds play a vital role in flood and water pollution control in communities throughout Florida and volunteer community programs have been successful at reducing local pollutant loads and maintaining pond health.  

The teachers and project team will develop curriculum that takes advantage of the pond “field site” located opposite the schools, which is currently under a process of beatification to become an accessible community green space. More advanced water and sediment analyses will be done as a part of an environmental engineering laboratory, which also looks at ponds on the USF campus.  Educational kiosks will be built at select pod sites, and the group will continue to partake in community-driven activities to share project information.

“This project builds on momentum established between USF and East Tampa over the years,” said Trotz. “That success is due to all of the parties involved, from the students at USF and in schools in East Tampa, to the teachers and community members. We hope this project evolves into a model for other universities wishing to engage with communities close to their campuses.” 

Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development said, “The ingenuity displayed by this year’s People, Prosperity and the Planet award winners shows that we can look forward to a bright future where economic growth and environmental sustainability go hand in hand.”

More information on the project can be found at

The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.