A team of student engineers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) has traveled to Washington, D.C., to compete in a national research and design contest sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The NJIT team was chosen by the EPA as one of 65 finalists to compete in the People, Prosperity and Planet contest, scheduled for May 16-17 on the National Mall. The five-student NJIT team was selected on the basis of a research project, funded by the EPA, about how to improve electronic recycling in America. A panel convened by the National Academies - advisers to the nation on science, engineering and medicine - will judge the student research and select six winners, each of whom will receive a $75,000 grant.
“How to recycle electronic equipment, especially discarded computers, is a major environmental problem not only in America but in the third world, where many of our old computers and electronics, which contain toxics such as mercury and lead, are shipped,” said Reggie Caudill, PhD, a professor in the department of industrial and manufacturing engineering at NJIT who advised the students. “The team came up with good recommendations on how cities and regions can improve their electronic recycling effort and I think they will do well in the contest.”
The NJIT team, all of whom major in industrial and manufacturing engineering, consists of Fernando Albayeros, Harrison; Javier Ortiz, Old Bridge; Jennifer Hernandez, Egg Harbor; Yvette Blackbourne, Newark; and Marelis Bernal, Newark. The students did the research as part of their two-semester-long senior design course.
“Electronic recycling, or the lack of it, is a really bad problem,” said team-member Bernal. “I wasn’t aware of all the toxic materials being deposited in landfills and how badly mercury and lead affects us until I started this project. I hope our project can help.”
The team’s research included visiting recycling de-manufacturing plants and retail stores, which could be used for drop-off points for the recycling of electronics, Bernal said. The overall objective of their project was to design a national system for electronics recycling that is cost-effective, operationally efficient, and operates in an environmentally safe manner, Caudill said.
To win the contest, a team must successfully describe how their project relates to people, prosperity and the planet – the cornerstones of sustainability, according to the EPA. They must also prove the relevance, significance and potential impact of their designs on furthering sustainability in the developed or developing world.
The contest was launched in 2004 to promote sustainability, according to EPA spokesman Estella Waldman. The contest allows college students to research, develop and design scientific, technical and policy solutions to sustainability challenges.
“Their designs,” Waldman said, “will help achieve the mutual goals of economic prosperity while providing a higher quality of life and protecting the planet.”
The contest is open to the general public. Each team will exhibit and describe its technology for sustainability. Exhibits on other sustainable and novel products for green buildings, fuel cells, clean drinking water, renewable energy, and many others will be adjacent to the student area. For more information on the contest, visit www.epa.gov/P3.