Matt G. Ashley
11th Grade
Stone Bridge High School
Ashburn, VA
Virginia – 3rd Place Winner

    Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia have significant population centers with high energy, water waste disposal and transportation demands. These demands place significant stress on these the environment and resources of this area. Young entrepreneurs can collaborate with the Virginia, Maryland, and District of Columbia governments to develop strategies using next generation technologies to reduce our area’s environmental impact. These technologies could involve areas focused on carbon sequestration, water resource management, efficient recycling and low impact transportation. There may also be opportunities to enlist federal agencies to participate and bring additional funding and technology to these strategies. 

    Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia all have some form of high level environmental strategy. For example, Mayor Vincent Gray recently announced that the city is developing a comprehensive sustainability strategy for the District. This strategy will establish goals in several important areas such as transportation, food, waste, water and energy and climate. To set these goals the state and local governments will have to have some level of understanding of the projects that they would implement. This will require studies and pilot projects to determine the large scale projects needed to achieve these goals. This is ripe for the participation of young entrepreneurs with inquisitive minds and fresh ideas. 

    The young entrepreneur can work with representatives of the state and local governments to identify specific target areas that can be used as a subject for studies and pilot projects. Examples of target areas include carbon sequestration for industrial use, water recycling, waste recycling and transportation that most significantly reduces the carbon footprint. Once these specific areas have been identified the young entrepreneur can collaborate with the representatives to establish the objectives of studies and pilot projects. With the objectives established the young entrepreneurs could take these ideas to the classroom to establish project teams and project plans to execute them. These teams could be mentored by the representatives, experts from federal agencies (e.g. Department of Energy), and other subject matter experts. The projects could include background research, surveys, analytical modeling and conceptual design. The results of the project would be published and could support future large scale project implementation. 

    Traffic and congestion in the metro area is heavy and increasing. This contributes significantly to the carbon footprint. Although light rail transportation in the District of Columbia area is good it is not easily accessible to many of the outlying areas in Maryland and Virginia. People commute to the District of Columbia from as far away as West Virginia and Pennsylvania. All of this traffic collects on the main roadways into the District of Columbia. It would be very beneficial to have a detailed integrated survey of the traffic movement into the city. This data can be used with a Geographic Information System (GIS) to develop a mathematical model to evaluate the routes where the light rail system would provide the greatest reduction in the carbon footprint and reduction in congestion. A study like this could also be used to support funding from the federal and state governments for additional light rail projects. In addition this project would expose the students to GIS and analytical modeling tools. 

    With the large population and industry in the metro area water usage is high and increasing. Collection and reprocessing of water could significantly reduce the demand on water resources. Similar to above it is possible to start with a survey collecting data on new water usage then overlay this data on GIS to come up with a plan to implement rain collection reservoirs and water reprocessing plants. Analytical models can then be used to estimate reduction demand on new water. This study could also point to specific industries that could reduce water usage by dedicated water recycling and collection. 

    Waste recycling (cardboard, paper, glass, plastic, etc.) is generally beneficial to the environment. However, the process for collection and recycling may be improved to provide greater net benefit. For example, optimizing methods for collection and transportation could reduce energy usage and increase the net benefit. Once again a survey could be performed to create a network of recycled material quantities and flow routes. This network could be used to develop a spatial math model to show where collection centers could be located to minimize energy usage. 

    The Department of Energy and industry have performed significant research and development studies and pilot projects on carbon capture and sequestration. Much like previously stated a survey can be conducted to see which industries with large amounts of carbon production would be candidates for application of carbon sequestration technologies. From this survey a specific industry could be selected for a pilot project to demonstrate the technology at full scale. It is possible that funding for this project could be obtained from both federal and state governments. Survey data could also be used with GIS to develop a carbon footprint reduction model that could help prioritize future projects. 

    The use of student project teams working closely with the state and the District of Columbia representatives would ensure that there is close collaboration and that the objectives are met. Additionally the use of subject matter experts to advise the student project teams also creates a great opportunity for an engaging learning environment. Surveys by student project teams are a realistic method to collect data that the local and state governments can use. This data is beneficial because once it is provided the local and state governments can maintain it for future use. 

    There are many ways in which a young entrepreneur can collaborate with the Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia governments to support implementation of environmental strategies. Through collaboration and the use of methods readily available to the student project teams, they can develop background research, surveys, analytical models and conceptual design that support the objectives of these governments. The focus areas of this work can include low impact transportation, water resource management, efficient recycling and carbon sequestration. The results of this work would promote the important strategies to ensure sustainability of the metro area.