Xavier Cotton and Cristian Madrazo wait for a bypasser to glance at their poster that outlines their idea for a drone that can clean up aquatic oil spills using hair as part of its filtration system.
At the other side of the room at the U.S. Library of Congress, Cheyenne Valles and Rebecca West are pitching their idea for a product that uses a mobile phone’s camera to take photos of a person’s eyes to determine if they are having a seizure.
A few feet away, a four-member team is eagerly explaining how their idea for a solar-powered mini-fridge to keep vaccines cool can help countries with unstable grid systems, such as Ethiopia.
In Photos: The CCIC poster showcase
Back across the room, Jacob Jalinski and his two student colleagues use their poster to show how their idea for a “smart” recycling bin can lower contamination in recyclables by opening its bin doors when it determines an item is not trash and can be recycled.
These are some of the product ideas presented during the poster session of the Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC), held this week in the Washington, D.C., area. The annual event is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and managed by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Boot camp to showcase
The 12 finalist college teams — comprising students and a faculty mentor — spent the earlier part of the week in a “boot camp” learning from experts on a range of issues related to making and selling their STEM-based ideas to solve real-world problems, from determining the cost of research and manufacturing and its potential market, to finding investors and marketing their products.
The teams then used that information to sharpen their skills in pitching their ideas during the poster presentation at the Library of Congress on Wednesday, and in a final push to a panel of judges on Thursday before it would determine the winning teams.
Sylvia Butterfield, acting assistant director for NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate, said the week’s events are just one example of the critical role community colleges play in supporting and educating the next generation of STEM talent.
“It has been inspiring to see how the participants’ hard work and dedication have resulted in some truly impressive projects addressing a wide range of real-world challenges,” she said.
AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus added that the student teams showcased the “leadership and ingenuity that is needed to address issues that impact all of us. We are proud to partner with the National Science Foundation to continue to spotlight the innovative STEM programs offered at the nation’s community colleges.”
And the winners are…
Bergen Community College (New Jersey) was named the top winner for its “ScanCan: The Intelligent Recycling Bin,” as noted above. A prototype is currently at the college’s research center and is being “trained” to determine what is and is not recyclable, said student Jacob Jalinski. That includes uploading multiple images of objects such as plastic bottles to build a reference library for the system, said Jalinski, whose teammates included Tyler Jacobs and Roee Shalom, along with faculty mentors Luis De Abreu, who is the college’s STEM program director, and physics professor Joseph Sivo.
Front Range Community College (Colorado) received second place for its inexpensive oil spill clean-up method dubbed “The Orca” because the idea was inspired by how whales feed. Students Xavier Cotton and Cristian Madrazo were mentored by Diane Rhodes, a member of the computer science faculty.
Columbus State Community College (Ohio) got third place for its “Columbus Kinesthetics” project, which uses augmented and virtual reality applications to help students learn technical skills. Students Adina Beaufort, Bryce Byington and Benjamin Fisher comprised the team with assistant professor Chris Dennis as their faculty mentor.