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Eagle Team Soars at EPA P3 National Student Design Expo

The U.S. EPA’s P3 – People, Prosperity and the Planet – program is a unique college competition for undergraduate/graduate student teams to design solutions for a sustainable future. This year’s P3 National Student Design Expo was held at the Tech Connect World Innovation Conference and Expo in Washington, DC on June 20, 2023. Georgia Southern’s student team was one of 16 U.S. teams that received P3 grant funding in 2022-23 to address environmental issues, and presented the results of their research at this year’s Expo.

The Georgia Southern team included senior design and capstone students from Manufacturing Engineering (Nicholas Wolf and Michael Jones) and Civil Engineering and Construction (John Collins, Corina Fluker, and Brendon Roberson), under the supervision of Dr. Kamran Kardel (PI), associate professor of Manufacturing Engineering and Dr. Francisco Cubas-Suazo, associate professor of Civil Engineering and Construction.

Additively Manufactured Novel Media for the Enhancement of Biological in situ Stormwater Remediation.

The team’s goal was to develop and test a biofiltration module that uses a novel 3D-printed medium that provides a very high surface area for microorganism attachment and development which can be used as part of an existing or new biofiltration device to enhance nutrient (N and P) removal in runoff from urban or agricultural watersheds.

Unmanaged runoff from urban and rural watersheds is a major contributor to nonpoint source pollution (NPS), deteriorating the water quality in streams, lakes, and estuaries across the U.S.  Excessive nutrients carried by stormwater runoff represent a major NPS (non-point-source) pollution problem because treating stormwater is a costly an unsustainable practice. Biological driven processes (e.g., biofilters) are a promising sustainable alternative to achieve high nutrient removal from runoff. However, these biofilters rely on a diverse community of microorganisms thriving in biofilm environments, which are subject to variable ambient conditions. Under certain circumstances, having variable environment conditions (e.g., variable nutrient inflow or ratios) may decrease the removal capacity of biofilters resulting in poor water quality.

The team designed, developed, and tested the nutrient removal capacity of the novel medium under different environmental conditions (e.g., variable retention times, nutrient inflows, and light availability). The nutrient removal performance of the medium was measured and compared to other commonly used media such as sand, anthracite, and activated carbon. The students then fabricated a prototype they presented during the P3 Expo (see picture above).


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