Competition fosters STEM ideas to address real-world problems

Members of Oakton Community College's team debrief after their presentation to judges at a previous Community College Innovation Challenge. (Photo: Matthew Dembicki/AACC)

The application for the 2023 Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC) opens on January 17. The competition gives teams of community college students the opportunity to win cash prizes and gain experts’ advice on their innovative solutions to real-world problems.

Submissions are due March 30.

CCIC aims to enable community college students to discover and demonstrate their capacity to use science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to make a difference in the world and to translate that knowledge into action. Each team is mentored by either a community college faculty member or administrator.

CCIC expects students to explain their concepts in detail but does not require prototypes. Nevertheless, some teams have pursued funding after the competition to bring their innovations to the marketplace or to continue testing their ideas.

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) offers the competition in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Students who would like to run their preliminary ideas by a former CCIC judge or to ask questions of a former competitor or NSF and AACC personnel are encouraged to attend an online idea-vetting session on February 1. The webinar is free, but registration is required.

Innovation Boot Camp for finalists

Teams selected as finalists are expected to continue to refine their ideas in April and May to prepare for CCIC’s Innovation Boot Camp, which will take place in the Washington, D.C., area in June. Finalists and their mentors receive full travel support to attend the camp.

At the five-day Innovation Boot Camp students receive professional development, mentoring, and coaching to build their strategic communication and entrepreneurial skills to help advance their innovations in both private and public sectors.

CCIC competition culminates in two events:

  • A national poster session, which STEM leaders and Congressional stakeholders attend.
  • A pitch presentation in front of a panel of industry and entrepreneurial professionals who determine the first-, second- and third-place-winning teams. Each member of the top team receives $3,000; second-place team members each receive $2,000; and third-place team members each receive $1,000.

E-mail for more information.

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About the Author

Madeline Patton
Madeline Patton is an education writer based in Ohio.