CORAL GABLES, FLA. — The Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development unveiled the winners of this year’s program at an awards ceremony in Miami. University of Cincinnati students Ethan Jacobs, Qingshi Tu, and Ronald Gillespie clinched the top prize with an idea that offers value across the supply chain, not only acting as a remedy for wastewater treatment plants, but also contributing to the energy security and environmental sustainability of the United States.

Advised by Professor Mingming Lu, the team’s “Using Trap Grease as the Raw Material for Biodiesel Feedstock Production” tackles one of the largest unseen wastes in society — the wastewater stream containing substances such as fats, oils, and greases. Their proprietary Waste Grease Extraction process allows extracting these substances from the municipal wastewater stream and using menial processing to convert them into a low-cost biodiesel feedstock.

Competition is open to students nationwide. The award, which includes cash prizes totaling $65,000, invites university students to search for innovative technologies and methods to promote sustainable and responsible development. Odebrecht USA, headquartered in Florida, and Braskem America, based in Philadelphia, sponsor the U.S. competition.

A team from University of California Berkeley took second place, as students David Campbell, Henry Kagey, Vivek Rao, and Advising Professor Slawomir Hermanowicz submitted the proposal "Solar Photocatalytic Greywater Recycling in Building Facades.” The project was co-advised by Professor Maria Paz Gutierrez.

Third place went to students Amanda Velazquez, Paola Davalos, and Sergio Baltodano, advised by Professor Andres Tremante, from Florida International University (FIU), whose entry was "Education, Renewable Energy and Disaster Resistant Housing for Rural Haiti: An Integrated Design for Reconstruction." Last year, FIU received a special recognition for having the highest number of entries making it to the top 15 ranked projects. This year, Johns Hopkins University received a similar recognition.

This is the second year of the Odebrecht Award in the United States. Winners of the inaugural 2012 program were honored last October in Houston. A team from Rice University captured first place, followed by Johns Hopkins University in second, and North Carolina State University in third.

Almost 600 students from 204 academic institutions have participated in the competition to date. Award entries are judged on content, technical contributions, applicability, clarity of presentation, and depth of reasoning.