Developing STEM innovators and potential careers

Central Lakes College in Minnesota plans to leverage mobile technology to help the families of active military and veterans deal with stress. Forsyth Technical Community College in North Carolina is testing a type of light source to cut the costs of growing produce in greenhouses. Ohlone College in California is using drones as an inexpensive way to detect landmines.

These are three of the 10 community college projects selected as finalists for the 2018 Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC), an annual program run by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

CCIC aims to strengthen entrepreneurial thinking among community college students by challenging them to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to find innovative solutions to real-world problems. Each student team works with a faculty mentor and industry partner to develop STEM-based solutions. The challenge requires teams to assess their innovation’s potential impact, identify its scientific and market feasibility and determine its societal relevance. Teams then must submit written and video entries.

“CCIC demonstrates the creativity of students in the nation’s community colleges and provides an exciting opportunity for them to start thinking about STEM careers,” said Jim Lewis, NSF acting assistant director for education and human resources, the directorate that funds CCIC.

The finalists will attend an NSF/AACC-sponsored Innovation Boot Camp in Alexandria, Virginia, in June where students will work with entrepreneurs and experts in business planning, stakeholder engagement, communication and marketplace dynamics.

“The students competing in this challenge are leaders in innovation, and their use of STEM solutions to benefit society are not only highly significant but necessary in helping to secure a strong future,” noted AACC President Walter Bumphus.

Diverse projects

Below are this year’s CCIC finalists and a summary of their projects:

Central Lakes College (Minnesota): Supporting Our Service Members
The project focuses on a STEM approach that leverages mobile technology to help active military as well as veterans’ families cope with stress, especially during a time of crisis.

Forsyth Technical Community College (North Carolina): Illumination Innovation
The project uses field-induced polymer electroluminescent lights to reduce the costs associated with growing produce in urban greenhouses.

Laney College (California): Integrated Thermal Electric Solar Water Heater
These water heaters integrate a heat collector on the back of a solar electric panel to capture unused thermal energy to heat water for natural disaster victims, homeless individuals and those living or camping in isolated regions.

Los Angeles Mission College (California): Using Wastewater to Generate Electricity in Los Angeles
This project uses bacteria in an innovative microbial fuel cell configuration to treat wastewater and produce energy.

Northern Virginia Community College: Chariteering
“Chariteering” is a web-based platform that facilitates collaboration between individuals who need assistance in the wake of disaster and engineers or professionals who would like to volunteer to help find solutions.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College: Easy Cast
This efficient and cost-effective invention focuses on mass producing a versatile, hands-free fishing apparatus that allows individuals with limited physical ability to enjoy fishing.

Oakton Community College (Illinois): Heat Recovering Silencer
This project replaces the traditional vehicle muffler with a new device that maintains noise reduction while recovering exhaust heat.

Ohlone College (California): Drone System for the Detection of Landmines
This project combines drone technology, nanotechnology and materials science to offer an inexpensive and safe way to detect landmines.

Red Rocks Community College (Colorado): Knee Assisting Exoskeleton
The project attempts to reduce weight on the knee joint with a full leg exoskeleton, creating a brace that will assist patients with a faster and more efficient recovery.

Western Dakota Tech (South Dakota): Electrical Automation to Solve Hunger
The project involves an automated system that combines raising fish for food with a method of growing crops using minimal human involvement.

Pitching their passion projects: 2017 CCIC teams on Capitol Hill

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CCDaily is published by the American Association of Community Colleges.