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Engineering Students DC-Bound

Engineering Students Will Compete for EPA Grants

Two teams — one looking to convert yard waste into ethanol fuel and the other hoping to use solar power to purify water — hope to be awarded $75,000 grants

(April 16, 2010)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - ( - Two teams of UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering students — one looking to convert yard waste into ethanol fuel and the other hoping to use solar power to purify water — will compete this week in Washington, D.C. for $75,000 Environmental Protection Agency grants.

"It's a huge honor," said Kawai Tam, the students' advisor and a lecturer at the college. "It really keeps UCR's name in the forefront."

The competition, the culmination of nearly two years work, will be held April 23 to 25 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the sixth annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall. At the expo, the students' projects, which seek to apply technology in innovative ways to tackle global environmental challenges, will be judged by a panel of experts. They will award six $75,000 grants, which will allow the teams to further their designs, implement them in the field or move them to the marketplace.

In fall 2008, the students submitted project proposals. Preliminary work started in early 2009 and in May the teams learned they were awarded two of the 43 P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) $10,000 grants from the Environmental Protection Agency. Teams that received the grants will compete in Washington D.C. this weekend.

UC Riverside is one of four California colleges to win a $10,000 grant. This is the third time UCR teams have won the award, but the first time two teams have been honored in the same year. Previous winners in 2005 and 2007 didn't receive the $75,000 grant, said Tam, who has coordinated UCR’s participation in the competition since 2004.

The UCR projects are based in the Bourns College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering Bourns College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and the College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT).

The first project, "Concentrated Solar Distillation as a Means to Purify Saline/Brackish Water," involves designing and testing a still that uses a Fresnel lens to make drinking water from saline/brackish water. The principal investigator for the project is Mark Matsumoto, a professor of environmental engineering. The team also includes Tam and students John Johnson, Christopher Salinas, Elizha West, Wesley Chen, Alex Chen and Luke Chen.

The second project, "Using Waste to Clean Up the Environment: Cellulosic Ethanol, the Future of Fuels," is studying and implementing the conversion of waste wood into fuel ethanol. Principal investigator for the project is Charles Wyman, a professor chemical and environmental engineering. He leads the team that includes Tam and students Vu Nguyen, Ramon Joshua Garong, Christine Kwon, Anthony Turgman and post-doctoral scholar Jian Shi.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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