Sanjana Shah and Rohan Chalasani have been honored by the Environmental Protection Agency with the 2015 President's Environmental Youth Award.
The EPA announced the winners — two from each of the agency's 10 regions throughout the country — April 19. Among this year’s winners were Cupertino, Calif.-based Sanjana V. Shah and Pittsburgh, Penn.-based Rohan Chalasani.
Shah, 14, received the award in the EPA’s Region 9, 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 EPA Pacific Southwest administrator Jared Blumenfeld in a statement. “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.”
A freshman at Monta Vista High School, Shah was also a top 10 finisher in the 3M Young Scientist Challenge (I-W Oct. 15, 2015 http://bit.ly/1VUNv2X).
“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 Shah’s science, math and computer science teacher Debbie Frazier in an EPA report. “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.”
Shah’s inspiration for the project came after her family was stranded in a car on a flooded road. She conducted research, developed a monitoring device and implemented a pilot project in her neighborhood.
Using a network of wireless flow sensors in the city’s drainage system to collect and analyze rain and storm water flow data, she calculated flood risk and demonstrated community flooding can be prevented by finding and fixing the drainage pipe sizes and creating real-time alerts for crews, the EPA said.
Those sensors have been installed throughout her community, alerting nearby homes of water build-up.
In addition to her Young Scientist Challenge honor, she was a finalist of the Bluetooth Breakthrough Award, and finished second at the 2015 Cisco IoT World Forum Young Women’s Innovation Grand Challenge.
Chalasani, a junior at Fox Chapel High School in Pittsburgh, was an EPA Region 3 winner for his impact of energy consumption reduction on household carbon footprints. More information about Chalasani’s project was not immediately available.
The President’s Environmental Youth Award has been given annually since 1971 to exceptional students in grades K through 12 who demonstrate creativity, innovation and leadership to address difficult environmental challenges. The award promotes awareness of the nation’s natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. All the projects are created by young individuals, K-12 school classes and youth organizations.