Funded Distinguished Awards Projects

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Student Team Members

Samuel Tuck (Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering); Sarah Baruch (Medical School); Samantha Cabala (School of Public Health).

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Andrew Jones (School of Public Health).

Partner Non-profit Organization

Bridging International Communities (

BIC Project Director

Dr. Michelle Leach (CoE, ’13)

Project Summary

Haciendita Uno (HU) is a small rural community located in the municipality of Suchitoto, in the Department of Cuscatlán, El Salvador. The residents of HU are poor rural farmers who produce basic grains and agro-industrial crops such as corn, coffee and sugar cane. Other crops, such as vegetables, herbs and/or legumes, would result in better returns, but are not grown due to a shortage of land, a lack of irrigation, and continual increases in the cost of agrochemicals, as well as poor farm management which has resulted in soil nutrient imbalances. The resulting reality faced by small Salvadoran farmers is bleak – the majority remain well below the poverty level and suffer frequent food insecurity.

The situation for youths (aged 18-25) in rural El Salvador is even more dire. Youths are unlikely to own land lacking sufficient funds to purchase any. Our proposed pilot project is designed to give Salvadoran youths an alternative option to generate substantial income by managing a vegetable cooperative consisting of 10 producers utilizing drip irrigation on small plots. El Salvador receives significant rainfall during the summer. Collecting and storing rainwater for use during the dry season is entirely possible, but is not feasible due to the high cost of storage containers. Each youth will receive a Flexitank, an affordable water storage container, with a large tarp suspended above to collect rainwater and funnel it into the tank. The tanks will be allowed to fill during the rainy season (May-November). Once the dry season begins, 120 tomato plants will be added and the youths will be trained to irrigate and care for the plants, and later to market the fruit.

The ten youths who participate in this project will gain knowledge and marketable skills in sustainable agriculture techniques. Additionally, the youths will be able provide for themselves and family with their newly acquired knowledge, skills, and resources.

The knowledge generated from this project will be compiled into an article and submitted to a journal, such as the Michigan Journal of Sustainability. A How-to manual and diagram will be produced in Spanish and English and made freely available. If successful, we plan to use the date generated by this project as preliminary data to apply for larger grants to further investigate the use of Flexitanks in the developing world.

Project Overview


Team Members

Alice Hou, Brett Slajus, Edith Jiang, Jessica English, Nishal Nandigam, Shreyas Ramani, Rayna Patel, Danielle Vanzura


Frank Anderson

Project Summary

Most Of the hospitals in our system discard tons of unused and unopened supplies and equipment annually. These are excess medical supplies and equipment that could be used to help impoverished countries, instead of ending up in landfills and incinerators. United 2 Heal’s mission is to promote sustainability by donating these surplus medical supplies to resource-­poor hospitals abroad, and to reuse and recycle equipment that would otherwise be thrown away. We work in conjunction with the internationally recognized non-profit organization World Medical Relief (WMR) to sort and distribute the medical supplies for shipments to underserved countries. We send supplies including but not limited to needles and syringes, drapes and gowns, laboratory supplies, optometry supplies, gauze and bandages, fetal monitors, and surgical, respiratory, IV, urological, orthopedic equipment. In addition, we collaborate with University of Michigan’s Project My Heart Your Heart by working with hospitals and funeral homes to reprocess and reuse pacemakers.

United 2 Heal sends 20- and 40-foot containers of medical supplies to underserved countries. Over The years we have sent over five 40-foot containers and several smaller shipments, which in total contained over $4 Million of medical supplies.

Project Overview



BLUElab India is a student run project team under the umbrella organization of BLUElab (Better Living Using Engineering Laboratory) at the University of Michigan. BLUElab's mission is to co-­‐design sustainable, appropriate technology with partners abroad and domestically. This past May, six members of BLUElab India's fifteen-­‐member team traveled to the Kalol area for an entire month to carry out an in-­‐depth needs assessment. After conducting informal interviews, recording observations, and building strong relationships, the team decided to focus on the small agricultural village of Dolatpura and on two problems that the villagers are facing. These two problems are the inhalation of cooking smoke and the lack of discrete, affordable toilets. Moving forward, the team will work to co-­‐design sustainable stove systems and economically viable septic tanks.

Project Overview


Student Team Members: Samuel Tuck (Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering); Sarah Baruch (Medical School); William Hirst (Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, College of LS&A). Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kathleen Nolta (Department of Chemistry, College of LS&A).

Project Overview


Applicants: Adithya Dahagama (SNRE), Leon Espira (SPH), John Monnat (TCAUP)
Faculty Adviser: Prof. Shelie Miller, SNRE
Project Overview


Lilly Fink Shapiro (School of Public Health – SPH)
Douglas Smith (College of Architecture and Urban Planning – CAUP)
Ashley Green (School of Natural Resources and Environment – SNRE)
Andrew Jones (SPH)
Lesli Hoey (CAUP)
Jennifer Blesh (SNRE)

Project Overview


This project proposes a profitable future vehicle sharing service for Ann Arbor by considering an autonomous electric vehicle (EV) design, charging station design, autonomous transport planning, and marketing strategy. This service will contribute to solving environmental impact, traffic congestion, and parking supply problems in the conventional transportation system. Also, this project can help service designers and policy makers understand the relationship between product, service infrastructure, and consumers. It also makes it possible to identify optimal balance between the design decisions from different disciplines when they are coupled and have tradeoffs. Future transformation systems in Ann Arbor will be more green due to autonomous EV sharing service, and our decision making approach will maximize the utilization of this service through holistic approach. For robust design, we will calculate sensitivities of our solution to changes in input parameters and assumptions.

Namwoo Kang, Design Science, Panos Y. Papalambros, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Fred M. Feinberg Professor, Ross School of Business, Michael Gashaj Industrial & Operations Engineering

Project Overview


This initiative focuses on retrofitting fraternity and sorority chapter houses to reduce energy and water consumption.  The next step for our group is to combine both the behavioral and structural changes into one system to maximize the program’s effectiveness and streamline the process to make it applicable to more chapters. Thus, we created a classification system similar to the LEED certification program and the University's Sustainable Workplace program. The goal of the system is to ease houses into the energy saving process by letting them start with several small adjustments, such as changing light bulbs, to help introduce the chapters to energy savings.  Our goal is that these projects will culminate in each house performing energy audits to improve energy efficiency on a larger scale.  We need financial support in order to give houses reward packages to motivate the continued movement towards energy efficiency. The ultimate goal is to perform subsidized energy audits on chapter houses, with the agreement that the money we take off the initial energy audit price will be reinvested towards renovations suggested through the audit. Once the houses see the money saving capabilities of the small changes, they will be more willing to take on these larger projects.

Faculty Adviser: Carol Menessa (Civil/Environmental Engineering Professor)
Group Members: Ariel Turjanski (Art and Design, Sophomore), Jamie Foti (Business, Sophomore), Joshua Goyert (Program in the Environment, Junior), Louise Wang (Program in the Environment, Sophomore), Sarah Levine (Environmental Engineering, Junior), Siri Andrews (Program in the Environment, Freshman), Adam Rosen (Informatics, Junior), Thomas Coto (Civil Engineering, Junior)
Project Overview


JusTake is a mobile application that serves to help counter the disposable mindset of many consumers. Rather than throwing away an unwanted good, one can utilize JusTake and offer it to others instead of a landfill. The user simply needs to take a picture of the item, choose the category it falls under, and add a description explaining how someone can get the item (side of the road, on porch, knock on door etc.). People looking for free stuff can use the application to view free items available near them. The key here is simplicity: a “trasher” just needs to post an item, and a “picker” can swing by and just take it!

Project Team: Kurt Waldowski (LSA/Art), Neil Matthews (CoE), Garrett Dewald (CoE), Jordan Vanderzwaag (LSA), Carl Elbaz (LSA), Jeremy Lash (Business School)

Project Overview


Consumers are willing to pay significant price premiums for goods with environmental attributes but these preferences often depend on an aspect of the good that need not relate to any fungible consumptive qualities of the good. Unlike product quality attributes (eg. appearance, flavor and durability) that are generally revealed either pre- or post-purchase, some environmental attributes (eg. sustainable, recycled, non-toxic, biodegradable, and cruelty-free) cannot be perceived by the consumer – goods with this feature are known as credence goods and they are pervasive in green markets, insurance markets, home repair services, medical markets, software services and taxi rides in unfamiliar cities.  This project will construct a laboratory experiment to test how sensitive green credence good purchasing is to variations in the noise with which market purity is measured. In the experiment producers may choose to sell “brown” goods and “green” goods, but may also fraudulently label that their brown products are green. Buyers prefer greener products, but differ in their willingness to pay for them. However, green-ness is a credence good that buyers are unable to ascertain on their own at any point in the experiment - even after consumption. In each of 15 periods we create a market in which the market price of green goods (including any fraudulently labeled green goods) is endogenously determined using a double oral auction. After each period of production and purchase decisions, buyers are given information on the market purity for that round and they are told how purity is calculated (ie, they are told whether it is measured with or without noise). Market purity is calculated as a ratio of actual green goods to all goods sold as green in the market in that period (thus the denominator includes all fraudulently labeled green goods as well as all green goods). While a buyer is never told whether the goods he purchased are truly green or brown, he is informed about the purity of the entire market for the previous period by the experimenter. Our dependent variables of interest are production, labeling decisions (if the subject is a producer), purchase decisions (if the subject is a buyer) and beliefs about market purity. Our three treatments vary in how many green goods are sampled to calculate market purity, i.e. the treatments vary how noisy the purity measure reported to subjects is.

Team Members: Dr. Erin L. Krupka, School of Information; Dr. Thomas Lyon, Stephen M. Ross School of Business; Dr. Arnab Mitra, Portland State University; Student TBA, School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Project Overview


U-M Faculty Mentors:
• Associate Dean Phyllis D. Meadows, PhD, MSN, R.N. University of Michigan, School of Public Health (SPH)
• Assistant Professor Ana Paula Pimental Walker, University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (TCAUP)
U-M Student Members:
• Kevin Boehnke, PhD candidate, SPH, Environmental Health Sciences (EHS)
• Matt Ferris-Smith, master’s student, TCAUP and School of Natural Resources and Environment
• Patricia Koman, MPP, PhD pre-candidate, SPH, EHS Environmental Epidemiology
• Haley Mullins, master’s student, SPH, EHS, Nutrition and member of Public Health in Action Student Teams
Committed Partner Organizations:
• Habitat for Humanity
• New West Willow Neighborhood Association
• University of Michigan –School of Public Health, Public Health in Action Student Teams
• Washtenaw County Economic and Community Development
• Washtenaw County Public Health
Advisory Group:
• Associate Dean Phyllis Meadows, University of Michigan, School of Public Health
• Professor Doug Kelbaugh, University of Michigan, TCAUP
• Assistant Professor Ana Paula Pimental Walker, University of Michigan, TCAUP
• Dr. Gail Hohner, Multidisciplinary Design Program, University of Michigan College of Engineering
• Mr. Paul Fontaine, MECC Project Manager, University of Michigan, TCAUP
• Mr. Eric Deuweke, MUP, Lecturer, University of Michigan, TCAUP
• Mr. Matt Naud, Environmental Coordinator, City of Ann Arbor
• Ms. Linda Mealing, President, New West Willow Neighborhood Association
• Ms. Sarah Teare, Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley
• Ms. Shataura Clayton, West Willow representative, Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley
• Ms. Danielle Thoe, MUP, Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley
• Ms. Sharon Sheldon, MPH, Washtenaw County Public Health Department
• Mr. Stephen Wade, MUP, Management Analyst, Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development
• Ms. Patricia Koman, MPP, pre-candidate PhD, University of Michigan, SPH
• Ms. Phoebe Goldberg, MPH, University of Michigan, SPH, Office of Public Health Practice
• Mr. Frank Quigg, landlord representative
Project Overview


Project Team

Praveen Loganathan, Ross School of Business
Alexander Cox, College of Literature Science and Arts
Daniel Pippen, College of Engineering
Matthew Gibson, College of Engineering

Project Overview


The Smart Residential HVAC (SRH) control system is proposed to monitor and control temperatures in multiple rooms independently. SRH will have sensors placed in each room to monitor occupancy and temperature status. Then the data will be sent to a central controller to determine the on/off state for the controlled valves on each duct openings in each room. Occupied rooms will be maintained by SRH at a pre-set human comfort temperature, while unoccupied rooms will be maintained at a relatively low temperature to reduce energy demand. A two-floor townhouse in Ann Arbor will be selected for system installation, experiment and data testing. We will build a simulation model for the selected townhouse to obtain annual HVAC energy demand and to determine the system parameters. Then we will install and configure the sensors based on the simulation results and make test runs in the house. Based on the actual energy demand data we will calibrate the simulated annual energy demand and achieve the total energy saving of this project. The expected total energy saving will be around 25%. 
Rui Chen (College of Engineering), Liang Ding PhD (Ross School of Business), Heng Kuang College of Engineering), Rudai Shan (Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning)
Project Overview


The idea of creating a greenway through Ann Arbor along Allen Creek has a long history that dates to 1980. The Allen Creek Greenway is a proposed pedestrian and bike friendly path located along the historic alignment of Allen Creek. The Greenway will create a safe, healthy, and sustainable transportation corridor through downtown Ann Arbor and provide an opportunity for responsible environmental stewardship of one of Ann Arbor’s oldest geological features – the Allen Creek and its surrounding floodway. Due to a confluence of public and political support, the time seems right to transform this idea into a community vision.

Interdisciplinary team: Larissa Larsen, Brian Talbot, Jonathan Bulkley

Project Overview


Laura Miller, Student’s Food Hub Coordinator, MPH/RD Candidate, Nutritional Sciences, Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health
Emily Canosa, Program Manager UM Sustainable Food Program;
Sarah Cissel, President Student Food Co., Sustainability Steward for ICC Housing, Undergraduate, Program in the Environment,
Ethan Schoolman, Dow Sustainability PostDoc Fellow, Erb Institute- Business School and SNRE
Nicole Kasper, PhD candidate Nutritional Sciences, Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health
Karen Peterson (Faculty Advisor), Director of Nutritional Sciences Program and Momentum Center
Project Overview


Team members: Nicholas A. Kotov, Julie S. Biteen, and John Hennessy

Project Overview


This project aims to address the issue of an excess of vacant homes and seafood security by assessing the feasibility, profitability, and community impact of a small-scale indoor shrimp aquaculture system in an abandoned home in Detroit. The findings will have larger implications for post-industrial cities grappling with urban decay, and will hopefully serve as a model for sustainable development through accessible, community-based small-scale urban aquaculture.

Principal Investigator

  • Lizzie Grobbel, Master of Science in Environmental Engineering Candidate, University of Michigan; Tauber Institute for Global Operations; Dow Sustainability Fellow

Advisors and Collaborators

  • Lutgarde Raskin, Altarum/ERIM Russell O'Neal Professor of Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan (Faculty Advisor)
  • James Diana, Professor, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan; Director, Michigan Sea Grant (Faculty Advisor)
  • Avery Robinson, Master of Arts in Judaic Studies Candidate, College of Literature, Science, and Arts, University of Michigan (Food Systems)
  • Matt Friedrichs, Community Organizer, M.O.S.E.S. (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength), Detroit (Community Relations)
Project Overview



This pilot project seeks to overcome disadvantages that members of the residential rental market (landlords as well as renters) face when seeking to finance energy efficiency projects in their units.  It focuses on the Ann Arbor, Michigan market through a two-pronged approach. First, the proposed program would offer grant-supported financial incentives and low-interest loans to landlords wishing to implement energy efficiency upgrades in their rental units. Second, the program would incorporate outreach and education efforts, such as a “green lease” program, whereby property owners agree to manage their unit in a sustainable way and renters pledge to reduce energy consumption and engage in more environmentally conscious behaviors. The team is communicating with the City of Ann Arbor about potential strategies. Students on this team are: Cassie Brown, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; Alicia Chin and Amy Eischen, both of the Ross School of Business; Efrie Friedlander, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; and Emily Taylor, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, the dual master’s program between Ross and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE). All team members are Dow Sustainability Master’s/Professional degree Fellows.

Project Overview


For this project, students are compiling the first comprehensive inventory of greenhouse gas emissions (sources and amounts) in Detroit, using protocols specified by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Spearheaded by the local non-profit organization and project client, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, and with support from U-M’s Center for Sustainable Systems, the greenhouse gas inventory will feed into a collaborative effort underway among local stakeholders and the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative to develop a city Climate Action Plan. Under the faculty direction of Rosina Bierbaum and Gregory Keoleian, SNRE, project team members include: Jill Carlson, Jenny Cooper, Dow Sustainability Master’s Fellows; Marie Donahue, Robb De Kleine, Max Neale and Anis Ragland, SNRE; and Melissa Stults, Architecture/Urban Planning and a Dow Doctoral-level Sustainability Fellow.

Project Overview


A team of master’s and doctoral students is overseeing the retrofit of a 112-year-old house in Ann Arbor, so the home will meet parameters of what’s called a “Living Building,” meaning that it is self-sufficient and self-sustaining in energy needs and water resources. Partnering with the THRIVE Net-Zero Collaborative, and working with U-M’s Living Building team, the group is leading the design of a zero-waste portable rainwater harvesting system, with on-site reclamation and treatment. The students are also seeking to qualify the site for certification under the Living Building Challenge by allowing the home to leave a net-zero impact on the site’s water cycle, an undertaking never before attempted on a single-family house. The project team includes: Derya Ayral, Devki Desai and Emily Herbert, Engineering; Alexandro Bazan and Sarang Supekar, SNRE and Architecture/Urban Planning; and Alexander Chow, Architecture/Urban Planning. The faculty advisor is Steven Skerlos, Mechanical Engineering.

Project Overview



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