Three Normandale students selected as finalists for National Community College Innovation Challenge

By Steven Geller - Director of Media and Public Relations

Video of Normandale students describing their proposal

Three Normandale Community College students, Tim DeCesare, Sophia Flumerfeldt and Naomi Nagel, coached/mentored by Normandale physics instructor Ange Foudray have been selected as one of 10 finalist teams for the second annual National Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC). All three students are part of Normandale's Academy of Math and Science.

The National Science Foundation, in partnership with the America Association of Community Colleges (AACC), named the 10 finalists for the competition, which fosters the development of crucial innovation skills among students.

"Community colleges provide a unique avenue for developing our STEM workforce and broadening participation, and the CCIC is a platform that highlights the innovative efforts of students and professors to enhance their knowledge and contribute to solving challenging issues," said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF's assistant director of Education and Human Resources."

This event calls on students enrolled in community colleges to propose innovative solutions based in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in order to address perplexing real-work problems.

"AACC is proud to partner with NSF on the CCIC in recognizing the exemplary efforts of community college students in developing STEM solutions to real-world problems around the nexus of food, energy and water systems," said Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO of the AACC. "The 10 CCIC finalist teams are implementing thoughtful and innovative STEM research that contributes to scientific discovery, progress and a more sustainable future."

The teams had to select two of the issues between food, energy and water systems. Normandale students chose to address Energy and Water Systems. The team of students proposed to install and implement hydrokinetic turbines in wastewater treatment plants to generate renewable energy.  

"We wanted to do something that would not require large-scale construction and would not be high cost," said Flumerfeldt. "We saw the water treatment plants that are a pre-existing infrastructure and figured it was something we could implement and monitor. We looked at the pre-existing structure to see how we could generate energy from it."

"This contest was a huge draw because it made us feel like we could make an impact and generate an idea that could make a difference," said Nagel.

Finalists in the contest will participate in a Community College Innovation Challenge Boot Camp to be held on June 20-23, 2016 in Arlington, Va. The Boot Camp is designed to provide a hands-on learning opportunity for the 10 finalist teams to further develop their ideas through workshops and technical assistance focused on building innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategic communication skills.

There will also be an opportunity for the finalist teams to display their challenge projects as part of a reception that will be held on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, June 22. Congressional members and key congressional staff will be invited to meet with the innovation challenge teams to learn about their ideas and proposed solutions.

"To get recognition from NSF, and to be invited as a finalist is a sign of the great work these students have done," said Foudray. "This group of students was very self-motivated throughout the process. They had an interest in the area they pursued, and it was fantastic to see them look at the project, run with it, produce something and get recognition for it. This is the type of experience that will be spur them on and motivate them as they proceed in their careers."  

The contest started on October 15, 2015, and the deadline was February 15, 2016. Each team was challenged to propose innovative STEM-based solutions for real-world problems that identified within the theme of Nexus for Food, Energy and Water Systems.

Normandale is the only community college from the state of Minnesota that was named a finalist. It joins teams from Northeast Community College (Nebraska), Tulsa Community College (Oklahoma), Perimeter College at Georgia State (Georgia), Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (Wisconsin), Forysth Technical College (North Carolina), Henry Ford College (Michigan), Red Rocks Community College (Colorado), Bucks County Community College (Pennsylvania) and Virginia Western Community College (Virginia).