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News Release 14-123

NSF announces the Community College Innovation Challenge

Students compete for cash prizes and professional coaching to develop STEM-based solutions for issues of local to global concern

photo of wind turbines and solar panels

Sustainability is among the challenge areas for students to offer innovative solutions.

September 16, 2014

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) launches its Community College Innovation Challenge. In this contest, NSF is challenging students enrolled in community colleges to propose innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-based solutions to perplexing, real-world problems. An incentive: Teams submitting top ideas will receive professional coaching and cash prizes.

More than 40 percent of U.S. undergraduates are enrolled at community colleges. Groups underrepresented in STEM as well as first-generation college students make up a significant portion of students on community-college campuses. NSF-funded projects at community colleges support STEM students transferring to four-year colleges as well as receiving education and training to become part of the high-tech workforce--in fields as diverse as biotechnology, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing.

Knowing the creative potential of these students, NSF invites teams of community-college students to identify key problems and propose innovative solutions in areas with potential for solving some of America's most daunting challenges: big data, infrastructure security, sustainability (including water, food, energy, and environment), broadening participation in STEM, and improving STEM education.

"Engaging the talents of these students is a priority for us," said Susan Singer, who leads NSF's Division of Undergraduate Education. "Through this competition we would expect to not only identify innovators but also to see new ways for students, faculty, community and industry to work together."

Ideas may be submitted through Jan. 15, 2015 via NSF's CCIC website. Each team must consist of three to five students currently enrolled and in good standing at a two-year associate-degree-granting institution, as well as a faculty mentor and a community or industry partner. Up to 10 teams will be selected as finalists and invited to participate in a three-day Innovation Boot Camp. This professional development workshop on innovation and entrepreneurship, featuring experts in a variety of related fields, is designed to hone skills applicable to commercializing ideas, using technology for social applications, communicating with stakeholders and creating business strategies.

Final-round judging will take place in person on the last day of Innovation Boot Camp. Each student member of the first place team will receive a $3,000 cash prize. Cash awards will also be distributed to team members on the second and third placed teams. Interested students may visit the challenge website for the full eligibility criteria, entry guidelines, timeline and prize information.

This challenge furthers NSF's mission by enabling students to discover and demonstrate their ingenuity to use science to make a difference in the world and transfer knowledge into action. It also furthers the benefit of incorporating research into the traditional teaching mission of the community college. Get updates on Twitter: #CCIChallenge.


Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311, email:

Program Contacts
Susan M. Mason, NSF, (703) 292-7748, email:
Kimberly Nelson, NSF, (703) 292-5052, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2022 budget of $8.8 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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