Team competes in extramural research program

A team of Pierce students is competing with colleges and universities nationwide in an environment-focused extramural research program aimed at encouraging and supporting student projects.


Eight students from varying educational areas of concentration have proposed an ozone-generated water purification system they hope will give people living in the rural areas of Africa better access to clean water.


The project was entered in the People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) program, an annual student design project organized by the Environmental Protection Agency.


The program, which counts the participation of numerous colleges around the country, will give a handful of research teams the chance to build their projects.


“[The projects] have to help society even on a small scale,” team member Jennifer Cuellar, 21, said. “You start with a community.”


In addition to benefitting the residents of an area, each project also has to contribute to increasing stability and to help a country’s economic development, according to the team’s adviser and instructor of physics and planetary sciences Craig Meyer.


Teams first create project proposals, which are judged by industry professionals. Of the entries sent, around 40 to 50 of them are chosen for a grant of $10,000 they can use to build the projects.


The participants then attend an expo in Washington, DC to present their projects and submit a full proposal to the judges. Of the 45 to 50 that are able to attend, only about four teams win a $90,000 grant to fully develop their technique.


The preliminary round of the program took place late last year, and all participants are still waiting to hear back from the judges to know if they are part of the group receiving the $10,000 grant.


Results should be out by the end of summer, according to Meyer.


This is the third time Pierce is participating in the P3 program.


The first time Pierce joined, the team passed the preliminary round and received the phase 1 grant. The second time not only earned them another phase 1 grant, but also enabled them to get an honorable mention.


“When I joined the first year, I thought it would be a good experience [for the students] to write a proposal,” Meyer said. “I was surprised [at our accomplishments] because we were the only community college there.”


While waiting for the results to come in, the Pierce team is further developing their project through a prototype they made.


“I try to involve students with hands-on [projects],” Meyer said. “It’s good for everyone. You get to do experiments like this and learn to work as a team.”


Meyer stresses that any success and recognition Pierce may get from the program is all due to the students’ work.


“It’s not my project,” he said.


The team’s members consider the work they do for the project to be invaluable.


“This project gives me more information than any of my classes, hands down,” environmental science major Chelsea Young, 25, said. “It’s really fun, and at the same time we’re learning a lot. What can be better than that?”


Not all of the students involved are studying toward a career in the science field, like 22-year-old computer numerical control major Duane Rose.


“We all have our skills,” he said. “It’s interesting to see people with different backgrounds, coming from completely different angles, working together for this.”