Distinguished Awards Projects

Displaying 1-10 of 84

A Sustainable Health Care System For Rural Haiti

Team Members

Elana Rosenthal, Matthew Chapman, Asher Feigenbaum


Professor Andrew Jones

Project Summary

Our long-term goal is to develop and build first level community-based healthcare facilities modeled after our successes to date with our clinic model in Duchity. This prototype Public Healthcare Facility (PHC) facility will be scalable, economically beneficial, reduce morbidity, and provide critically needed healthcare needs to the most vulnerable population of Haiti. Our proposal includes novel solutions utilizing solar power, and telemedicine with information technology.

The strategy is early effective medical intervention by screening, diagnosing and treating diseases utilizing medically accepted standardized techniques. The roles of the PHC includes: comprehensive early detection screening, diagnosis, laboratory tests, vaccinations, distribution of medications, basic emergency care, create a data collection base for continual monitoring of follow up care and for epidemiological analysis to predict epidemics in their early stages, continuing education/ training to empower and motivate healthcare workers and patients.

This prototype facility can be replicated with an interconnected data base with other PHC’s in remote communities hundreds of miles apart or many hours away due to bad road conditions.

Adapting Outdoor Aquaponics Systems to Seasonal Locations

Team Members

Stuart Nath, and Daniel Choi


Joseph Trumpey

Project Summary

The main goal for this project was to develop an outdoor aquaponics system capable of providing affordable, fresh food to communities in need. Aquaponics is a form of small-scale, sustainable urban agriculture that combines hydroponics (plants grown in water) and aquaculture (fish farming). The project team worked with residents in Southeast Michigan to implement aquaponics systems using outdoor gardens.

The team researched power consumption, production, and insulation capacity, and tailored the project to prepare installing a typical small scale aquaponics system. The project framework was designed to increase success by identifying an outdoor garden capable of surviving the winter. The team’s partner organization, Neighborhood B.U.G., has experience converting abandoned lots into community gardens in specific neighborhoods in Detroit. Aquaponics systems will be located in selected sites with the potential to provide food to people in need, as well as, job and educational opportunities for community members.

Addressing Challenges in Slum Redevelopment

Team Members

Sneha Rao, Michelle Hindman, Olivia Lu-Hill, Sean Murphy, Yash Shah, Zeqi Zhu


Vikramaditya Khanna

Project Summary

Indian megacities face several unique challenges in providing even basic needs and services, notably housing, water, and waste management, for one of the largest and most dense populations in the world. Government campaigns launched in the past year, “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” (Clean India Mission) and “Housing For All by 2022” represent a nationwide call to action for a cleaner, healthier, and safer India.

Achieving these ambitions are complicated in an urban environment where core problems are magnified in scale and particularly daunting in Mumbai, where half of the city’s population is estimated to live in slums. Future slum redevelopment projects present an opportunity to learn from past policies, especially now as cities prepare citywide plans for executing the clarion call of “housing for all”.

Our aim for this project is to create a resource of knowledge for policy makers, developers, and architects involved in upgrading low-income informal housing and to develop a streamlined process that would benefit all involved parties, including slum dwellers and government agencies. Our research analyses of the Mumbai Model for slum redevelopment and of the existing implementation tools and practices, have given us insight into how the current approach can be improved upon.

African Solar Electric Trailer (e-Trailer) Project

This team demonstrated that solar-powered electric vehicles could assist rural residents in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions of the world. The team developed a prototype for a solar bicycle electric trailer designed to carry food, wood, fertilizer and other goods. The trailer also has the additional benefit of providing cell phone charging and nighttime lighting to rural villages. Furthermore, the team will define a sustainable business model for manufacturing, distributing, and leasing such vehicles in villages and cities in Ghana.

The additional $30K will support project efforts to conduct road tests of the solar-powered vehicle, implement a smartphone app to assist riders, complete the design and build another prototype tailored for use in urban Ghana. The team will also quantify the environmental benefit of the solar mini electric vehicles and raise additional funds to perform tests in Accra, Ghana. Pratt & Miller Engineering (Lyon, Michigan) designed and manufactured the first prototype and will continue to work in partnership with the student team.

To foster high-impact sustainability collaborations across U-M, Dow Distinguished Awards for Sustainability supports applied sustainability projects across all disciplines and includes students at all academic levels. Projects are student-led, faculty advised, and action-oriented, outlining a new product, service, or project to protect the environment and enhance the quality of life for present and future generations. Projects span the full breadth of sustainability topics, including but not limited to energy, water, communities, food, built environment, transportation, etc. The Distinguished Awards is part of the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program at the University of Michigan, supported by The Dow Chemical Company Foundation.

Assessing Alternative Hydropower for Ann Arbor and Beyond

Assessing Non-Economic Loss and Damage from Climate Change

This project focuses on assessing and measuring non-economic loss and damage (NELD) from climate change or other environmental stress as experienced by marginalized communities. The project and methodology were built in partnership with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in northern Wisconsin. The project team conducted ethnographic interviews with tribal members to identify potential adverse health impacts, reduction in biodiversity, loss of indigenous knowledge, as well as the loss of identity or sense of place resulting from the destruction of culturally important landscapes or built sites. By analyzing these oral histories, the team plans to create a final report to both inform policy-makers and establish a community archive. The team is also exploring the feasibility of developing a methodology to assess non-economic loss and damage, thereby informing adaptation and mitigation strategies that minimize the consequences of climate change.

Belding Community Youth Food Collaborative

The Belding Community Youth Food Collaborative is a student-led, 12-week youth empowerment and market-based program for high school-aged students. Accepted student-leaders took charge of six garden plots at the local community garden to gain horticultural and leadership skills over the course of the summer. Student leaders also utilized the Teen Market Garden curriculum to create a business plan for the produce and herbs grown and took part in healthy living seminars. Students measurably increased their knowledge of organic agriculture and culinary practices and were exposed to a wide variety of new ideas and food stewards in their community, increasing awareness and interest in the field. The student leaders took the lead on continuing responsibility for the garden through fall 2017 and a 2018 iteration of the program.

Big Data & Small Farmers: Leveraging Data Science to Inform Best Farming Practices in India

Team members

Pavel Azgaldov, Shamitha Keerthi, Brian Wang, Adithya Dahagama, Hassan Bukhari, Rachel Jaffe, Samhita Shiledar, Stacy Pancratz


Peter Adriens

Project Summary

Rural households in semi-arid Telangana, India have been farming the same lands for generations. It is imperative for farmers to focus on risk management under resource constrained conditions and uncertain times. Our project proposes to harness the power of data to inform both risk management and local best management practices for small landholding farmers in India. The scope of this project includes data collection from individual farmers in the State of Telangana, India, to determine nutrient management practices. Using data science, we seek to tease out relationships between productivity, nutrient management and exogenous factors for rural villages in this region. The overarching objective of the project is to design and establish a framework to collect and analyse spatial and temporal high resolution farming data on a regional or national scale to subsequently leverage big data science to inform nutrient management practices among small farmers.

Biosand Filters for Water Decontamination in Rural Chinese Communities

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Jose Alfaro (Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources)

Faculty Co-advisor

Dr. Steven Wright (Professor, School of Engineering)

Team Members

Whitney Johnson (MS, School of Natural Resources, team point of contact); Sibu Kuruvilla (Ph.D., School of Engineering, 2nd point of contact); Rashmi Krishnan (MS, School of Natural Resources); Zu Dienle Tan (MS, School of Natural Resources); Nicholas Jansen (BA, College of Literature, Science and the Arts, Program in the Environment)

Partner organizations

Sustainability Without Borders, Rural Intercultural Student Exchange (RISE, Beijing)

Project Summary

High levels of arsenic in the groundwater in China are a major public health concern. In addition to a fairly widespread volume of naturally occurring arsenic-contaminated well-water across China, a significant amount of arsenic is contributed by anthropogenic actions like rapid industrialization, weak environmental policies and poor planning. Cases of chronic arsenicosis have been found in eight provinces in mainland China, including Shanxi. Biosand Filters (BSF) are low-cost, low maintenance, point-of-use filters that are built out of locally available materials. The Arsenic Biosand Filter (ABSF) is a version of the BSF that is designed to remove arsenic and pathogens present in the groundwater. At the University of Michigan, we built a prototype of an ABSF design with the intent of replicating the contamination and filtration scenario in Shanxi, testing our filter and further optimizing our design. At Pingyao - Shanxi, we worked with our student partner organization, the Rural Inter-cultural Student Exchange (RISE) group from Tsinghua University and a student group from the Taiyuan University of Technology to implement another design variant of the ABSF in a village. We successfully built 43 ABSFs in individual households, and initial performance tests showed that the ABSFs were able to remove up to 87% of arsenic, relative to the arsenic content of the inflowing water, while minimizing the turbidity of the water. Ongoing and future work entails the periodic testing of the filters’ performance to ensure arsenic removal is stable and continuously available. Further, we are interested in creating a dynamic flow setup to reduce labor intensity of using the ABSF and further automate the system. Additionally, we are currently researching the extent of arsenic contamination in other communities to explore regions we can expand our work to.

BLUElab India

Team Members

Thomas Veraart and many others from the following schools/colleges: Literature, Science and the Arts, Stamps School of Art & Design, College of Engineering


BLUElab India is an interdisciplinary student organization dedicated to co-designing appropriate technology with the community of Kalol in Gujarat, India. Our objective is to design water purification and storage technology in tandem with the residents of Kalol, in order to develop a sustainable solution that is implemented and utilized for many years to come.

The ultimate goal of this group is to install a sustainable water storage system in every household in Kalol and to educate community members on water sanitation. The project objectives are to be accomplished in incremental stages, over the course of five years. The goals are as follows:

Year 1. Ethnographic and scientific research/community development;

Year 2. Implementation of Prototype 1;

Year 3. Assessment of prototype one/community outreach;

Year 4. Implementation of Prototype 1 with modifications/promotion of technology;

Year 5. Widespread Installation/Project Assessment and Evaluation

In this first year, the team will travel to Kalol to conduct ethnographic and scientific research to understand the cultural norms and water conditions of the community. In addition, we will begin to build relationships with the community members through educational workshops. The team will build and install the technology in certain parts of the community in year two, so that residents and students can begin to test the design. In year three, the team will work with the residents to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the design, so that they can install a modified design in the villages in year four. The team will collaborate with community members to promote the use of the technology, and in year five the team will install the project in most households. The team will then conduct a project assessment to determine the project roadmap for the next five years.