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Promoting Undergraduate Research and Education through Extracurricular EPA P3 Projects

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Woo Hyoung Lee P.E. University of Central Florida Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Woo Hyoung Lee, P.E. is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering at the University of Central Florida (UCF). He received his Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 2009. Prior to joining UCF in 2013, he worked for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory as a post-doc. His primary research area is to develop electrochemical microsensors for in situ investigation of physical and chemical dynamics in microenvironments (e.g., biofilm, corrosion, emulsions, or plant) by combining with nano and biotechnology. His other research interest is to develop renewable (bio)energy processes for environmental sustainability. He is currently a registered professional engineer.

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The P3 Program is an annual-based unique national student design competition for designing solutions for a sustainable future focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) supported by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA’s P3 program is intended to support science-based projects and designs developed by multi-interdisciplinary student teams that benefit people by improving their quality of life, promote prosperity by developing local economies, and protect the planet by conserving resources and minimizing pollution. Through this national student design competition, undergraduate and graduate students can gain new skills and knowledge as they research, develop, design, and implement scientific and technical solutions to environmental challenges. The P3 Award Program is composed of two phases that award grants on a competitive basis.

In this presentation, the principal investigator (PI)’s successful stories of three P3 awards (12th, 14th, and 15th) will be discussed from the concept development, students recruit and involvements, and proposal development to the execution of the awarded research project (both for Phase I and Phase II). In 2015, the PI’s student team won a 12th P3 award, a first in the PI’s university history, and exhibited a novel process of microalgae separation using forward osmosis at the 4th USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington DC in 2016, the largest and only national science festival, featuring nationwide contests and school programs. The student team attracted the interests of hundreds of K-12 students and parents, and received an honorable mentions award in sustainable energy. The positive experience has encouraged the undergraduates to expand their sight of the broader picture at the collegiate level. Through this process, they have the opportunity to experience all the steps involved in a scientific endeavor, starting from conceiving an idea from their literature review and conducting experiments in the lab to finally building up a scientific proposal for materializing their vision. They also learn how to find potential collaborators in other disciplines (e.g., biology, chemistry, and biomedical engineering) on campus. Overall, preparing a P3 proposal and executing the project will not only improve technical writing skills, but also provide a holistic view on how their ideas can be written in a format of the technical proposal. This includes a quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) plan, social, economic, and environmental outcomes, identifying their potential end users and partnerships for their technologies. Through this P3 experience under the PI’s guidance, student participants will improve their research and presentation skills. As one of the results in previous mentoring efforts, a student team leader (12th award) received an American Membrane Technology Association Undergraduate Research Fellowship and an America Chemical Society Undergraduate Student Award in Environmental Chemistry. Currently one of the student team leaders (14th award with a topic of super-hydrophobic sponges for oil-water separation) is involved in the university’s NSF I-Corp program to further develop the P3 solution, working with industrial mentors that will aid in overcoming obstacles that appear, and also obtaining an awareness regarding the market for our product and the best course of action to implement our product.

Lee, W. H. (2019, June), Promoting Undergraduate Research and Education through Extracurricular EPA P3 Projects Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33211

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