Teams from Red Rocks Community College in Colorado and Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana placed first and second in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC).
The top-ranked teams were decided after 10 finalist teams participated in a rigorous Innovation Boot Camp last week, sponsored by NSF and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The boot camp included a visit to the U.S. Capitol, where teams displayed their innovations, met with lawmakers and staff and conducted live demonstrations enabling attendees to explore and interact with teams’ approaches to addressing real-world problems.
“This year NSF embarked on one of its most innovative competitions,” said Susan Singer, director of NSF’s Division of Undergraduate Education. “We invited students at community colleges around the U.S. to identify perplexing problems and propose creative STEM-based solutions in potentially impactful areas. And they rose to this challenge.”
Students proposed solutions in areas such as big data, infrastructure security, sustainability and broadening participation in STEM. Teams offered a broad range of projects and detailed creative approaches with tremendous potential for solving some of America’s most daunting challenges.
The Red Foxes, from Red Rocks Community College (Colo.) placed first in the challenge with its innovative Mobile Medical Disaster Relief Dispensation Unit. When responding to a disaster, medical teams often have no way of tracking the medicine they need to dispense, making the process disorganized and mistakes easy. The Red Foxes created a secure, portable device to quickly administer medicine to those in need, while simultaneously recording where and by whom the medicine was dispensed. The device is made from 3-D printed parts, and incorporates a motor, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracker and Raspberry Pi computer chip to efficiently track the dispensation of medicine within a disaster area. A doctor would use it by swiping an RFID tag. If the device recognizes the tag, it uses its motor to dispense medicine. The machine records the transaction and wirelessly backs it up to a central location. By allowing medical teams to easily and accurately monitor drug administration, the “Red Foxes” device would make disaster relief quicker and safer.
Ivy Tech Biotech from Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana in South Bend placed second with its “Betadataquantadata,” a hand-held, lay person-operated biosensor for coliphage. Coliphage is a virus that indicates the presence of E. coli, bacteria that can contaminate water, causing diarrhea and other health problems. Many people lack access to reliable, clean water, and 5,000 people die each day from ingesting contaminated water. Testing to determine water safety can be expensive and time consuming, taking one to four days to get results. Ivy Tech Biotech invented a user friendly, self-contained biosensor that quickly and efficiently determines if water is contaminated. The sensor allows users to test water without needing a lab or intensive training and yields results within a few hours. With more than 2.5 billion people worldwide lacking access to clean water, Betadataquantadata’s accessible and affordable water testing could have profound impacts.
“The ten teams whose members earnestly participated in NSF’s Innovation Boot Camp are all winners,” said Singer. “Each and every participant learned from us and from each other. Their enthusiasm was contagious and inspiring.”
On the last day of the boot camp, teams delivered final presentations and were assessed by a five-member panel of judges. The judges were appointed for their rich and diverse backgrounds and experiences: Knatokie M. Ford, founder and CEO of Fly Sci Enterprise; Matt Garza, director of product, 1776; Anna Quider, director of federal relations at Northern Illinois University; Martin Margala, professor and chair of the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell; and Edgar Troudt, assistant professor at the City University of New York’s Kingsborough Community College. Biographical information on each of the judges is attached.
Other winning teams, and their projects, included:
Amphibian Pathogens, Inver Hills Community College (Minn.),Amphibian research drives broad STEM participation
A test that observes DNA under UV light to identify the presence of a devastating parasitic fungus in amphibians.
The FUE – food in urban environments, Tulsa Community College (Okla.), Reliable urban food production in changing climate
A small-scale replica of an experimental rooftop garden that tests the effects of different weather conditions on food production in urban environments.
Team Lagoon, Indian River State College (Fla.),Optical characterization of lagoon pollutants
Optical methods on manned and unmanned systems to monitor water quality of the Indian River Lagoon with an estimated economic value of $3.7 billion.
Innovators of the Bighorns, Sheridan Community College (Wyo.),Engineering algae to improve biofuel production
A display with a short, interactive, animated film that shows all aspects of the process of using food crops such as algae as fuel.
HFC Future Engineers, Henry Ford College (Mich.), Real-time accident detection on Michigan highways
A prototype of road networks that detect accidents in real-time and immediately dispatch authorities.
Snow College Innovation Team, Snow College (Utah),Environmentally friendly pigment synthesis
Live demonstrations on how to make pigments that act as antennas in a plant cell to redirect and store solar energy, and to see pigments at work in a solar cell to power a model home.
PVCC Water Health, Piedmont Virginia Community College (Va.), Water Health as assessed by surveying protists
A demonstration of the Open Science Framework, a free, online tool to promote the collaboration and sharing of data on critical issues such as water health.
Tulsa CHAMP, Tulsa Community College (Okla.), College-high school aquaponic mentoring partnership
A hands-on demonstration of a “living laboratory” designed to teach about the multi-disciplinary field of aquaponics.