Virginia Western Community College is one of 10 national finalists for the second annual Community College Innovation Challenge, an initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

The Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC) 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-world problems. All of the finalists submitted videos describing their proposals.

“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 for Education and Human Resources.

The Virginia Western submission, titled Efficient Mechanical Collection Method of Recovering Waste Apples, proposes a mechanical way to recover apples that otherwise could not be sold to produce and environmentally friendly biofuel, allowing more efficient use of U.S. orchards and new economic opportunities for apple producers.

Community colleges play an important part in developing America’s technical workforce. They do so in part by involving underrepresented groups in science and recognizing the importance of mentoring students for STEM careers. Many graduates become highly valued employees in a variety of fields, supporting industry’s need for an educated and technologically proficient workforce.

“AACC is proud to partner with NSF on the Community College Innovation Challenge 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 AACC.¬†“The 10 CCIC finalist teams are implementing thoughtful and innovative STEM research that contributes to scientific discovery, progress and a more sustainable future.”

This year’s CCIC focused on a priority area of research for NSF: the Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS) program, which seeks new ways to help society deal with growing resource demands. Through INFEWS, NSF has invested nearly $75 million in multidisciplinary research. Many of this year’s finalist projects focused on sustainable water resources, an area of research that NSF and other federal agencies pledged to support this week at the White House Water Summit.

Students who participate in CCIC will contribute to this national effort, and benefit from prizes and professional development opportunities.

Other finalists included:

  • Northeast Community College, Nebraska
  • Tulsa Community College, Oklahoma
  • Normandale Community College, Minnesota
  • Perimeter College at Georgia State University, Georgia
  • Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Wisconsin
  • Forsyth Technical Community College, North Carolina
  • Henry Ford College, Michigan
  • Red Rocks Community College, Colorado
  • Bucks County Community College, Pennsylvania