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ODU Team in EPA Event Develops “Elevator Pitch” Video as Part of Competition

Got a good idea? Can you explain it in a minute?

That is one of the challenges facing the team of Old Dominion University engineering students competing in this week's P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) competition sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The ODU team, under the direction of Sandeep Kumar, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, is one of the finalists in the competition. They'll leave Thursday this week and compete Friday to Sunday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., against more than 50 university teams from across the country.

The ODU team has worked all year on a novel algae-processing technique, which instantly extracts key nutrients and proteins from algae, leaving the solids, fats and carbohydrates to convert as transportation fuel. Kumar's lab, which has received funding from the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium, is dedicated to researching alternative fuel sources made of natural products.

Through the preliminary studies for the next stage, the team has shown that the nutrients can be recycled into growing more algae or creating fertilizers, and the proteins can be turned into polyurethane foam or food additives. The entire process is significantly more energy efficient over the life cycle of the algae because so much of the product can be reused.

It's quite the mouthful.

As part of the P3 competition, teams were challenged to make a one-minute video about their project that could explain it to a potential investor or a student interested in doing research in ODU's Biofuels Lab. Hannah Drake, a master's student in environmental engineering at ODU, appears in the video.

During the P3 competition, the pitches will be judged by a panel of clean-technology venture capitalists, who will assess how the idea is communicated, especially regarding its potential value as a business concept.

The team with the best "elevator pitch" receives a $1,000 prize, with other prizes going to the runner-up and people's choice winners.

The elevator pitch competition is only one aspect of the P3 competition, which will see a handful of the finalist teams receive a $90,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at commercial applications of their innovation.

For information about the competition, see: http://www.epa.gov/P3/.

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