Service Projects

Hydroponics is important because the environmental impacts of growing and transporting food contribute to the degradation of our environment and the use of non-renewable resources. This project focused on quantifying the environmental impacts and feasibility of using hydroponics in South Oakland so the community would be better equipped to make decisions that contribute to its well-being and address food security in South Oakland over the winter.


Each year our cohort of undergraduate research students participate in various community service projects. Here they are helping the Pittsburgh Parks conservancy fight back against garlic mustard, an invasive species found throughout Frick Park in Squirrel Hill. 

Frick Park

Advisor: Dr. Amy Landis

ostermann msci

The currently battery recycling program on the University of Pittsburgh's campus is limited and not accessible to individual members of the campus community. This project will not only initiate a highly visible and easily accessible campus wide battery recycling program but it will also help to encourage members of the community to be aware of the impacts of the disposal of their electronic waste through education. This will be accomplished through educational posters and battery collection locations dispersed throughout campus.

Team Captain: Can Aktas

Team Members: Bill Collinge, Kristen Ostermann, Neethi Rajagopalan, Monica Rothermel, Kullapa Soratana, Cassie Thiel, Xiaobo Xue

Advisor: Dr. Melissa Bilec

Collaborator: Shaler High School


Sustainable design principles such as rainwater collection, composting, and installing small-scale electricity generation to demonstrate a net zero energy building will be applied to a greenhouse. This is not a short-term project; rather, we anticipate that the greenhouse will continue to be used by both future high school classes and elementary/middle school students in the district, encouraging the community and other schools in the vicinity to initiate other sustainable projects and become more interested in sustainability and green technologies.

Plant2Plate manages an urban garden on campus, which provides produce for students and a local food a bank, and engages the campus community around issues related to food and sustainability

petelawnA group of Pitt students led by Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) is teaming up with the Mascaro Center, Pitt's Facilities Management, a non-profit organization called SEEDS, and Dr. Dan Bain of Pitt's Geology Department in order to bring a community rain garden to Pitt's Oakland campus. A site on the northwest corner of the Pete Lawn has recently been chosen and approved for the project. The rain garden will serve to capture rain water , and hold it in a shallow pond-like garden structure, until it can naturally infiltrate the soil thus reducing the amount of run-off that floods both Pittsburgh's sewer system and the grass on the Pete Lawn.

Members of the project team, which consists of active ESW and Free the Planet (FtP) members, will be responsible for all phases of the assessment, design, and construction of the rain garden. The assessment phase is set to begin in early May. Upon receiving the necessary information from these tests, the design phase will commence in mid-May, with construction expected to be finalized by the end of June.  The project team is excited to not only deliver something beautiful and functional to the Pitt campus, but also to raise the awareness of sustainability in the Pitt community by posting explanatory signs at the rain garden site.

For more information, or if you'd like to get involved, please contact project leader David Palm at

Mascaro Center

Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
153 Benedum Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

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