Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) named 10 teams as winners in its Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC). The CCIC challenged community-college students to propose innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-based solutions to perplexing, real-world problems.

Community colleges from across the country participated in the challenge. They were invited 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); and broadening participation in STEM. Winning teams offered innovative projects ranging from engineering algae to improve fuel production to developing mobile medicine dispensing units for disaster relief.

The 10 winning teams represent nine community colleges across the country. These teams will head to NSF this summer for an Innovation Boot Camp June 15-18 co-hosted by NSF and the American Association of Community Colleges.

The Boot Camp is designed to provide a hands-on learning opportunity for the finalist teams to further develop their ideas with a focus on building innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategic communication skills. At the Boot Camp, students will network, interact with experts, and receive coaching, mentoring and guidance during sessions and activities that will help them further validate, refine, develop, and potentially implement their novel solutions to real-world problems.

Innovation Boot Camp participants will also exhibit their innovations at a reception on Capitol Hill, hosted by U.S. Representative David Price from North Carolina on June 17. Price works to improve higher education and make it more affordable for working families. The NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program, established by a Price-authored bill in 1993, helps community colleges upgrade their training programs for jobs in high-tech fields.

Winning teams and projects follow.

Team Name – Institution (State)

Project Title


Amphibian Pathogens

Inver Hills Community College (Minn.)

Amphibian research drives broad STEM participation

Broadening STEM Participation

IvyTech Biotech

Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana (Ind.)

Biosensor for coliphage, aka “Betadataquantatada”


The FUE – food in urban environments

Tulsa Community College (Okla.)

Reliable urban food production in changing climate


The Red Foxes

Red Rocks Community College (Colo.)

Mobile medical disaster relief dispensation unit

Infrastructure Security

Team Lagoon

Indian River State College (Fla.)

Optical characterization of lagoon pollutants


Innovators of the Bighorns

Sheridan Community College (Wyo.)

Engineering algae to improve biofuel production


HFC Future Engineers

Henry Ford College (Mich.)

Real-time accident detection on Michigan highways

Big Data

Snow College Innovation Team

Snow College (UT)

Environmentally friendly pigment synthesis


PVCC Water Health

Piedmont Virginia Community College (Va.)

Water Health as assessed by surveying protists



Tulsa Community College (Okla.)

College High School aquaponic mentoring partnership

Broadening STEM Participation

Background on the CCIC

Today 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.

For full details on the contest, visit the challenge website for the full eligibility criteria, entry guidelines, timeline and prize information. You can also watch the 20 semifinalist videos from which the 10 winners were chosen.

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.