Normandale Students take second place at Community College Innovation Challenge

By Steven Geller - Director of Media and Public Relations

Normandale Community College students Tim DeCesare, Sophia Flumerfelt and Naomi Nagel (along with instructor Angela Foudray) tied for second place at the 2016 Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC) for developing innovative research-based solutions to challenges at the nexus of food, energy and water systems.

The 2016 CCIC focused on Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS) program, an NSF priority that seek new ways to help society deal with growing resource demands.

Normandale's team of students proposed to install and implement hydrokinetic turbines in wastewater treatment plants to generate renewable energy.

The three Normandale students and instructor were part of a group of 10 CCIC finalists, selected nationally from community colleges who submitted videos describing their proposals. The 10 finalists attended a four-day innovation "boot camp" from June 20-23 in Virginia and Washington D.C., where they received feedback on their presentations and met with experts on subjects including a team-based design, communicating the value of innovation and transitioning research to commercialization.

Additionally, finalists were given the opportunity to present their projects to members of Congress and legislative staff during a Capitol Hill presentation Wednesday.

"AACC congratulates the winners and all the finalist teams participating in this year's Community College Innovation Challenge," said Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO of American Association of Community Colleges. "We are so proud to be a part of this important initiative.  The student team members, working alongside their faculty mentors and industry partners, represent the nation's future leaders in STEM innovation.  They are to be strongly commended for their impressive and inspiring efforts."

The National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), developed the CCIC competition as a way to foster development of crucial innovation skills among students in one of the nation's most significant academic sectors. Community Colleges play an important role in developing America's technical workforce, in part by involving groups traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.  

"The Community College Innovation Challenge presented these students with real-world questions that the scientific community is working to answer," said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF assistant director for Education and Human Resources. "It has been gratifying to see how enthusiastically all of this year's participants have responded to that challenge. These winning teams are emblematic of the kinds of quality entries we received."

Forysth Community College (North Carolina) finished in first place for a project that proposes a way to modernize today's greenhouses to fit individual customer needs by incorporating the use of renewable energy sources.

Virginia Western Community College tied Normandale for second place with a project that proposes a mechanical collection method of recovering apples that otherwise could not be sold to produce an environmentally-friendly biofuel, allowing more efficient use of U.S. orchards and new economic opportunities for apple producers.

A panel of expert judges, that included Rathindra DasGupta, a former NSF longtime NSF program director and current innovation and entrepreneurship consultation; Denise Eblen, deputy director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture; Morven McLean, executive director of the Center for Environmental Risk Assessment at the ILSI Research Foundation; Anna Quilder, director of federal relations at Northern Illinois University; and Kenneth Walz, director of the Consortium for Education and Renewable Energy Technology, selected the winners