IHCC Students Finalists for National Science Foundation Community College Innovation Challenge

Inver Hills Community College

IHCC students to participate in a three day Innovation Boot Camp in Washington, DC

The Amphibian Research Team from IHCC has been named one of ten finalists in the Community College Innovation Challenge.  The CCIC, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is a contest in which students enrolled in community colleges propose innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-based solutions to perplexing, real world problems.

Knowing the creative potential of these students, NSF invited teams of community college students 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.

The Amphibian Research Team at Inver Hills is composed of faculty member Lisa Tracy, Department of Biology, students Anabonita Martinez, Jack Bauer, Sarah Kline and Amy Blise, as well as a community partner John Moriarty, representing Three Rivers Park District.  The team is entered in the category of broadening participation in STEM.  Undergraduate research is a high impact practice, meaning that is has been shown to improve student success and retention.  By having a small group of students keeping the momentum for a larger novel research project, hundreds of students in the classroom have an opportunity to participate in STEM on a deeper level.

In mid-June this team will head to the NSF Headquarters in greater Washington, DC to participate in a three day Innovation Boot Camp. This professional development workshop on innovation and entrepreneurship, featuring experts in a variety of related fields, is designed to hone skills applicable to commercializing ideas, using technology for social applications, communicating with stakeholders and creating business strategies.
The team has been studying the effects of an environmental pathogen that has been causing amphibian declines worldwide.  They have found the fungus Bd (Batrachochytrium dendrobatis) in nearly all the frog samples from the Inver Hills campus.  Students detect the presence of this pathogen by swabbing frogs and completing a series of molecular biology techniques.  Their next step is to test for the presence of a protective chemical that may be helping some of the frogs.  This project broadens participation in novel STEM research by including the students from introductory biology and environmental science courses.  A video that tells their story can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsezFdQ6w34 or by searching YouTube for Amphibian Research at Inver Hills Community College.

Innovation Boot Camp participants will attend a reception on Capitol Hill, hosted by U.S. Representative David Price from North Carolina.  Price has worked to improve higher education and make it more affordable for working families. The National Science Foundation’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.

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.  More than 40 percent of U.S. undergraduates are enrolled at community colleges.

For full details on the contest, visit the challenge website for the full eligibility criteria, entry guidelines, timeline and prize information.

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