Red Rocks Community College Places Second In NSF Innovation Challenge

Red Rocks Community College team. From left to right: Red Rocks Community College program lead for cyber security and computer networking Joseph Murdock; Acting NSF Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources Jim Lewis; student Isaac Kerley; student Bruno Salvatico; student John Sanchez and Red Rocks Community College IT Director Bill Cherrington. Image Credit: NSF

June 16, 2017 – Teams from Texas and Colorado received first and second place awards, respectively, in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC).

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) co-sponsors the annual event, which fosters students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers by asking them to offer creative solutions to real-world problems.

This year, CCIC had students propose solutions to issues focusing on three themes: Maker to Manufacturer, Energy and Environment and Security Technologies.

“Our role as an agency is to fund trailblazers with curiosity-driven ideas,” said NSF acting Chief Operating Officer Joan Ferrini-Mundy at a Wednesday Capitol Hill reception, where students showcased their projects. “We know that community colleges are rich resources for the skilled technical workforce and provide an environment where bright new ideas can thrive.”

A four-judge panel selected first place awardee Del Mar College for their proposed solution to a problem that affects about 2 million people each year in the United States: the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Their project, called “Slowing Antibiotic Resistance with EnteroSword,” promotes the use of tailor-made viruses that only infect and kill bacteria resistant to conventional antibiotic treatments.

Red Rocks Community College received second place for their project, “Cyber Lab Learning Environment,” which demonstrates how students can learn without fear in the safety of student-created cyber labs and develop real-world skills in response to real-world challenges. With print and digital materials, the cyber lab provides a real-world environment for advanced learning.

“These students exemplify innovation,” said AACC President and CEO, Walter G. Bumphus. “The finalists were impressive and inspiring and I commend the students, their faculty mentors and the industry partners for these exceptional concepts. I would like to congratulate the winning teams and thank them for illustrating how America’s community colleges provide learning opportunities that can change lives. We are proud of the Community College Innovation Challenge and our partnership with the National Science Foundation to highlight the amazing work of community colleges.”

Judges chose winners from 10 teams selected earlier this year as CCIC finalists. Each team consisted of three to five students, a faculty mentor and a community or industry partner. NSF announced the complete list of finalist teams in April.

Winners were selected following a four-day boot camp in Arlington, Virginia, and a reception on Capitol Hill where the students demonstrated their projects for members of Congress.

Thursday, teams made their final presentations, which were assessed by Cristina McGlew Castro, a senior manager at Cisco Systems; Steven McKnight, vice president for the National Capital Region at Virginia Tech; Susan Rundell Singer, provost at Rollins College; and Karen Trovato, co-Founder, Novel Reach, Inc.

“More than 40 percent of U.S. undergraduates are enrolled at community colleges,” said Jim Lewis, acting NSF assistant director for Education and Human Resources, which funds CCIC. “It’s important that we reach these students, many of whom are from communities underrepresented in STEM and encourage them to see themselves in STEM professions after graduation. This group of CCIC participants give us hope for continued excellence in the STEM workforce pipeline. Congratulations to everyone who entered.”