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News Release 18-024

2018 Community College Innovation Challenge finalists announced

Challenge develops STEM and entrepreneurial thinking among community college students

Community College Innovation Challenge promotional image

NSF and the AACC name the 10 finalists in fourth annual Community College Innovation Challenge.

April 9, 2018

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), has named 10 finalists for the fourth annual Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC).

CCIC seeks 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. Finalists attend an NSF-AACC-sponsored Innovation Boot Camp in Alexandria, Virginia, in June. At the boot camp, students interact with entrepreneurs and experts in business planning, stakeholder engagement, communication and marketplace dynamics.

"Many talented students may not have considered a career in a STEM field," said Jim Lewis, NSF acting assistant director for Education and Human Resources (EHR), the directorate that funds CCIC. "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. Fostering talent from all over the U.S. is crucial to NSF's mission and our nation. I congratulate the finalists and look forward to seeing them and learning more about their STEM-based inventions."

Among the ideas teams presented this year are solutions for assisting those with knee injuries, detecting landmines left in place after armed conflicts and harnessing energy from waste products.

Teams consist of three to five students, a faculty mentor and an industry partner. 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.

"AACC is pleased to continue its partnership with NSF and congratulates the 10 finalist teams of the fourth annual Community College Innovation Challenge," said Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the AACC. "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."

The 10 finalists are:

Central Lakes College, Minnesota: Supporting Our Service Members
Supporting Our Service Members is 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
Illumination Innovation 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
Integrated Thermal Electric Solar Water Heater integrates 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 LA
This project uses bacteria in an innovative microbial fuel cell configuration to treat wastewater and produce energy.

Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia: 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, Wisconsin: Easy Cast
Easy Cast is an efficient and cost-effective invention for 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
The Heat Recovering Silencer 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 Knee Assisting Exoskeleton 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 Electrical Automation to Solve Hunger project involves an automated system that combines raising fish for food with a method of growing crops using minimal human involvement.


  • CCIC finalists from Laney College's project would use heat water using waste heat from solar panels.
    Credit and Larger Version

  • Central Lakes College's project involves a mobile app to support service members during crises.
    Credit and Larger Version

Media Contacts
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8485, email:
Martha Parham, American Association of Community Colleges, (202) 728-0200, 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 2023 budget of $9.5 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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