JBU Students to Compete at National Sustainable Design Expo

Siloam Springs, Ark. (April 21, 2010) — A team of John Brown University students will compete in the P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability at the 6th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, DC on April 24-25. This final piece of a two-part competition is designed to bring together professional scientists, engineers, students and business leaders to compete for $75,000, as well as advance economic growth while reducing environmental impact. Forty-two teams from across the country were selected to participating in the competition.

Dr. Larry Bland, associate professor of engineering at JBU has led students Moises Cordova-Sanchez, Susanna Whittaker and Katie Sesler in their efforts to create an affordable, sustainable solar energy heater for the developing world. The team evaluated a low-cost, easily maintainable parabolic reflector that would be efficient and appropriate for developing locations, and develop a simple, innovative, low-cost method of tracking the daily movement of the sun that is usable in all latitudes and all seasons.

Team member, Susanna Whittaker said, “This competition provides a great opportunity to be a part of changing the world, and is an excellent incentive for young minds to start thinking about the future of our planet.”

The intensive research and testing also included locating materials that are locally available in most underdeveloped regions, are cost affordable and maintainable. Along with creating hot water for various household needs, the team expects the water to reach a temperature sufficient to destroy pathogenic bacteria and provide a secondary benefit of a system that works both as a heater and a water purifier.

Initially, teams competed for $10,000 grants and used the money to research and develop their design projects during the academic year. Then, in the following spring, all P3 grant recipients attend the EPA's P3 Award competition in Washington, D.C. The P3 competition is focused on benefiting people, promoting prosperity, and protecting the planet through innovative designs to address challenges to sustainability in both the developed and developing world. The best student designs get the funding of up to $75,000 to further their ideas, implement them in the field, and move them to the marketplace.

Whittaker said, “If we receive the grant for our solar water heater we hope to contribute to improving the health of people in underdeveloped communities from smoke inhalation, as well as the planet by lessening deforestation by reducing the number of fires for heating water on a daily basis. It is an exciting endeavor and I am very proud to get to play a small part in it.”