A team of student scientists from Pasadena City College has earned a spot alongside 11 other competitors from around the nation in the 2021 American Association of Community Colleges Innovation Challenge STEM Competition, the organization announced Tuesday.
The annual competition “seeks to strengthen entrepreneurial thinking among community college students by challenging them to develop STEM-based solutions to real-world problems,” the AACC said in a written statement. “it also enables students to discover and demonstrate their capacity to use STEM to make a difference in the world and to translate that knowledge into action.”
The contest is hosted in partnership with the National Science Foundation, organizers said in a written statement.
“The Pasadena City College team is exploring the use of antibody conjugated nanoparticles to assist in the identification and treatment of cancer and infectious diseases,” the statement said.
The PCC team is the only group from California among the field of 12 competitors, each made up of teams of two to four students, along with a faculty adviser or mentor, according to the AACC.
Last year’s competition was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers said in a written statement. This year’s event will be held in a digital format.
“Finalists attend a Virtual Innovation Boot Camp in June and will interact with entrepreneurs and experts in business planning, stakeholder engagement, strategic communication and marketplace dynamics,” the statement said. “The Boot Camp culminates in a Student Innovation Showcase with STEM leaders and Congressional stakeholders, and a pitch presentation to determine the first-, second- and third-place winning teams.”
After being on hiatus as a result of the pandemic, AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus said it was good to be back.
“The students competing in this challenge are leaders in innovation, and their use of STEM solutions to benefit society are not only highly significant but necessary in helping to secure a strong future,” he said. “Our post-pandemic world will need fresh, innovative minds to design creative solutions to help those that need it most, and we are excited to help facilitate the process.”
Several of the ideas presented by this year’s teams directly relate to addressing the pandemic, from biodegradable masks to in-home virus testing kits, the statement said. Entries also covered a wide variety of other areas, ranging from a virtual reality system to help children with autism to kits for converting gas cars into electric ones.”
NSF Education and Human Resources Directorate Assistant Director Jaren Marrongelle said the students had left her impressed.
“It is truly inspiring to see the creativity and amazing talent of students in the nation’s community colleges, and I would like to congratulate the finalists for their hard work,” she said.
“We need to inspire new generations across all communities to explore the wonders of science and engineering, and CCIC is an exciting opportunity for students to start thinking about STEM careers,” Marrongella added. “I look forward to learning more about their projects and the contributions these students will make to America’s STEM future.”
More information on the Community College Innovation Challenge, including a full list of finalists and projects, can be found on the competition website at aaccinnovationchallenge.com.