Two California students have been honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). The national award is presented each year to exceptional students who demonstrate creativity, innovation, and leadership to address difficult environmental challenges.
Eleven year old Joshua Cigoianu, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., will receive the 2015 President’s Environmental Youth Award for his water conservation efforts.
“During a severe drought, finding ways to conserve our precious water is everyone’s responsibility,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA is proud to honor Joshua’s extraordinary effort to engage fellow students in environmental action and better the lives of those in his community and future generations.”
“Grades of Green is thrilled that Joshua was selected for this prestigious award,” said Allie Bussjaeger, Programs and Outreach Manager for Grades of Green. “Joshua has been a member of the Grades of Green Youth Corps Eco-Leadership program for the past two years, and as his advisor I could not be more impressed by Joshua and all he has done to inspire and empower his peers and the broader school community to care for the environment.”
As a fifth-grader at Meadows Elementary School, Joshua was inspired to do a water conservation project after learning about California’s drought. Working closely with the school principal, he implemented an action plan that included educating his fellow student through signage, changing the way art brushes were cleaned in the classroom to reduce the amount of water used, and ensuring there were adequate recycle bins for water bottles. Joshua also started an Earth Library at the school—creating both a reference list of environmental protection books and writing 17 personal reviews—and advocated for the use of reusable water bottles while giving out “Meadows Water Hero” stickers to those who participated.
Joshua has received several recognitions for his work, including the Environmental Hero Award from his city and an Honorable Mention Award from a local non-profit organization. He is currently a student at Manhattan Beach Middle School, where he has started another Earth Library.
Fourteen year old Sanjana V. Shah, of Cupertino, Calif., will also receive the 2015 President’s Environmental Youth Award for inventing a network of flow sensors that analyzes real-time data and assesses flood risk in her community.
“Urban floods can have devastating consequences on human life, the environment, and the economy,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA is proud to honor Sanjana’s extraordinary effort to engage in environmental action and better the lives of people in communities throughout the nation.”
“Sanjana’s flood sensor device takes advantage of cutting edge remote and real-time technology, while being feasible and cost-effective for local jurisdictions to employ,” said Debbie Frazier, Science, Math, and Computer Science Teacher for Monta Vista High School. “This project emerged out of a life experience for Sanjana’s family that could be prevented for others. It also has great applications for improving planning and maintenance of drainage systems during non-flooding seasons. Sanjana is a model for modern youth – it’s so valuable for young people to move beyond just using mobile tech, to developing it and using it in innovative ways.”
As a ninth-grader at Monta Vista High School, Sanjana was inspired to do an independent project addressing community flooding after being stranded with her family in a car on a flooded road. She started by conducting original research, developing a monitoring device, and implementing a pilot project in her own neighborhood. Sanjana used a network of wireless flow sensors in the city’s drainage system to collect and analyze rain and storm water flow data. She later calculated flood risk and demonstrated that community flooding can be prevented both by identifying and fixing the drainage pipe sizes and creating real-time alerts to proactively deploy crews to fix potential drainage openings that could have otherwise caused floods in different parts of the city.
Sanjana has successfully installed a network of these sensors in her local community, which alert the nearby homes if water levels build up. Sanjana has received national recognition for her work, including being selected as a finalist in the Young Scientist Challenge and the Bluetooth Breakthrough Awards, and a second place winner in the 2015 Cisco IoT World Forum Young Women’s Innovation Grand Challenge.
For details on all of the the new PEYA winners, visit: https://www.epa.gov/education/presidents-environmental-youth-award-peya-winners