Students from Woodland Community College are advancing in a national innovation challenge for developing a tracking method to locate missing people or those in potential danger.
Called the Location Emitting Emergency Ring, the wearable device uses GPS tracking, live audio feed and a panic switch to alert family and friends that the user might be in danger, according to Dr. Lorena Navarro, Woodland College MESA director. The Woodland College team consists of the following students and administrators: Marco Medina-Hernandez, Melissa Miller and Dr. Lorena Navarro, the Math, Engineering, Science Achievement director.
The team was one of 12 to advance in the Community College Innovation Challenge Finals. In June, they will attend an Innovation Boot Camp to pitch their solution to what is considered a real-world challenge in Washington, DC.
The American Association of Community Colleges is holding the competition in partnership with the National Science Foundation.
Now in its seventh year, the competition seeks to strengthen entrepreneurial thinking among community college students. Teams consist of two to four students and a faculty or administrator team mentor.
The Boot Camp culminates in a Student Innovation Poster Session on Capitol Hill with leaders and Congressional stakeholders and a pitch presentation to determine the first, second, and third-place winning teams.
“This Boot Camp will give the team the opportunity to be coached in building communication and entrepreneurial skills relevant to supporting innovation in both the private and public sectors,” stated Navarro. “The sessions will include information applicable to commercializing ideas, using technology for social applications, communicating with stakeholders, refining a pitch, and more.”
“The reason I decided to join the Community College Innovation Challenge was because I thought it was an interesting motive to create something cool and exciting while working alongside my friends,” stated Medina-Hernandez. “I am a firm believer that we should strive to leave the earth as a better place than when we first got here and having the opportunity to serve my community through this challenge seemed like the right choice for me.”
Miller viewed the competition as a real challenge. “I chose to participate in the CCIC because in my heart of hearts, I love to compete,” she stated.
“This challenge presented a unique open-ended question that I couldn’t wait to create an answer to,” she continued. “I’m looking forward to this experience and how far we can take this.”
As part of the competition, the students were to identify a problem of local to global concern that could be rectified through the use of STEM innovation and to then assess the potential effect on society (such as the economy, national security, global competitiveness, the environment or quality of life), determining scientific and market feasibility and identifying the challenges and ways to work through them.
Both Medina-Hernandez and Miller are part of the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Program at Woodland Community College, which assists educationally and economically disadvantaged students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields to excel in their studies and transfer to a four-year university to earn a STEM bachelor’s degree.
MESA provides academic and career advising, drop-in tutoring, professional development workshops, STEM competitions, STEM field trips, mentorship, assistance with the transfer process, visits to UC and CSU campuses, and more, stated Navarro.
“As soon as I heard about the Community College Innovation Challenge, I emailed the organizers to find out if the competition would be held this year and if any community college could enter,” Navarro explained. “They replied yes to both questions. STEM competitions are designed to help students gain skills required to succeed in the innovation-focused twenty-first-century job market. They allow students to solve a specific challenge or problem through science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.
“The CCIC is rooted in real-world issues, encouraging students to use creativity and critical thinking in order to come up with innovative solutions. Students also work together in teams, strengthening their collaborative and social skills,” she continued.
“I was thrilled when Melissa and Marco volunteered to be on the team. Melissa and Marco worked diligently to develop the project including doing research,” Navarro noted. “They met regularly and continued to work on the project during their Spring Break. The deadline was Thursday, March 30, and they were attending the MESA Student Leadership Retreat in Santa Cruz from March 31 through April 2.”
“Our team was thrilled to be selected as a finalist and we look forward to representing Woodland Community College in Washington, DC, in June,” she concluded.
Miller was one of two Woodland College students who participated in a competition held March 4 at the University of the Pacific MESA Day where they featured a low-cost prosthetic arm capable of intricate tasks. Also participating in that competition was Dua Hassan, who both received a $300 cash Prize.
Some of the other projects developed by the 12 finalist schools include an “Intelligent App” for dementia care that helps caregivers detect, monitor and alleviate the symptoms dementia, a PET Plastics Solution that turns plastic bottles into 3D printer filament at low cost with minimal preparation, and a water pump that can be used by wildland firefighters that is solar-powered and can be set to activate when picking up the heat signature of an approaching wildfire.
“On behalf of AACC, I would like to congratulate the 2023 CCIC finalists,” said Walter Bumphus, president and chief executive of the American Association of Community Colleges. “Each year, I am impressed and inspired by the level of talent displayed by these community college students, and I am very proud to partner with the National Science Foundation to provide a platform for these future leaders that are taking on the real-world challenges with creative, thoughtful, and transformational proposals.”