Illinois team wins at 6th Annual Campus RainWorks Challenge

5/2/2018 3:03:52 PM

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was a winner at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) sixth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, a national collegiate competition that engages the next generation of environmental professionals to design innovative solutions for stormwater pollution. 

“Today’s students are tomorrow’s innovators,” said EPA Office of Water Assistant Administrator David Ross. “Through EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge, we are harnessing the creativity and enthusiasm of college students to solve local stormwater problems and better protect the environment.”

Stormwater runoff is a significant source of water pollution in America, conveying pollutants to waterbodies, contributing to downstream flooding, and threatening public health and the environment. The Campus RainWorks Challenge asks students and faculty members at colleges and universities across the country to apply green infrastructure design principles, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and increase the use of green infrastructure on the nation’s college campuses.

EPA invited student teams to compete in two design categories: the Master Plan category, which examines how green infrastructure can be broadly integrated across campus; and, the Demonstration Project category, which focuses on how green infrastructure can address stormwater pollution at a specific site on campus. With the help of a faculty advisor, teams of students focused their expertise, creativity, and energy on the challenges of stormwater management and showcased the environmental, economic, and social benefits of green infrastructure.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign came in first in the Place Demonstration Project Category. The team’s project “Campus Hydro Redesigned” integrates a variety of green infrastructure practices into a campus parking lot, reducing impervious area, and completely mitigating the stormwater runoff from remaining impervious surfaces. Using descriptive signage and native vegetation, the team’s design also seeks to add ecological, social, and aesthetic value to the site, converting parking space into a multi-functional campus amenity.

Art Schmidt
Art Schmidt
“This challenge resulted in students from many colleges and disciplines across campus collaborating to address a stormwater issue on campus using sustainable, green stormwater infrastructure concepts,” said Art Schmidt, Research Assistant Professor in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE).

The team consisted of 13 students from colleges and departments across campus, including five from CEE. Schmidt served as the primary advisor. First place teams received a $2,000 student prize to be split among team members and a $3,000 faculty prize to support green infrastructure research and education. 

Watch the team’s video about their project:


EPA plans to announce the seventh annual Campus RainWorks Challenge in the summer of 2018. Since 2012 nearly 600 teams have participated in the Challenge. 

Green infrastructure tools and techniques for stormwater management include green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, habitat conservation, rain gardens, and rain harvesting systems. Using these tools decreases pollution to local waterways by treating rain where it falls and keeping polluted stormwater from entering sewer systems. Communities are increasingly using innovative green infrastructure to supplement “gray” infrastructure such as pipes, filters, and ponds. Green infrastructure reduces water pollution while increasing economic activity and neighborhood revitalization, job creation, energy savings, and open space.

Read the full press release here.