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Montana Tech Team Awarded Grant for Innovative Technology Project

12/22/2020

Montana Tech student team Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced approximately $792,036 in funding for 32 student teams through its People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) grant program. A team from Montana Technological University is one of five teams to receive funding to develop and demonstrate projects that help address environmental and public health challenges.

The interdisciplinary team includes Montana Tech students Amber Freebourn, professional and technical communication; Sam Butcher, biological sciences; and environmental engineering students Kris Bosch, Kelsey Parker, and Mami Sherman. Dr. David Hutchins, Montana Tech visiting assistant professor of Environmental Engineering, is the project lead. The team is mentored by Montana Tech faculty members Dr. Katherine Zodrow, Dr. Richard LaDouceur, Dr. Robert Pal, and Dr. Dario Prieto.

The team received a $24,946 award for their project titled Biochar Wattle for Enhanced Surface Water Quality. The project will optimize and assess the effectiveness of a novel stormwater treatment technology and aims to innovate an affordable solution for surface water pollution challenges. The team plans to use the technology in the disadvantaged community of Butte, Montana, which lies in the nation's largest Superfund site.

"Montana Tech's student teams have an impressive track record of tackling significant problems and developing cost-effective and innovative solutions that can make a huge difference. Congratulations to Dave, the other faculty mentors, and the student team for winning this significant financial support from EPA for their project to clean contaminated surface water. We are eager to learn their results as the project progresses," noted Dr. Beverly Hartline, Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate School.

Hutchins added, "I'm very proud of this interdisciplinary team of students and the work they are doing. The opportunities for hands-on research at Montana Tech and the EPA give them the skills and confidence to be the problem-solvers we need. I can't wait to see what they do with this project and in their future careers."

"As EPA celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, we are highlighting ways the agency supports the next generation of environmental leaders," said Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, EPA's Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science and EPA Science Advisor. "The P3 program helps foster environmental education among students to support the next generation of scientists and engineers working to tackle some of today's most pressing environmental issues."

The funding from phase 1 will develop a proof of concept. Each of the five teams is eligible to compete for a Phase II grant of up to $100,000 to further implement their design in a real-world setting.

Phase I grantees include student teams from the following universities:
• Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., MAP-HABS: An Innovative Platform for the Early and Ongoing Detection of Harmful Algal Blooms
• Montana Technological University, Butte, Mont., Biochar Wattle for Enhanced Surface Water Quality
• South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, S.D., Efficient Solar-Driven Water Desalination Based on Nanomaterial Design
• University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, Fungi-bacteria Based Biodegradation of PFAS
• Western Dakota Technical Institute, Western Dakota Tech, Rapid City, S.D., Tertiary Wastewater Treatment through Aquaponics

To learn more about the P3 Phase I winners, visit: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/recipients.display/rfa_id/655/records_per_page/ALL