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Forsyth Tech Team Takes First Place in NSF Competition by Applying Nanotechnology to Innovation

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by Camel City Dispatch

Students Win National Science Foundation competition with Energy-Efficient Solar Greenhouse Project

by staff

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced last week that a panel of expert judges selected Forsyth Technical Community College’s team of nanotechnology students as first place winners in the 2016 Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC). The students’ innovative approach to applying nanotechnology to maximize the efficiency of greenhouses through solar energy elevated them to the national championship.

winning team
winning team

Forsyth Tech’s team included Shannon Coalson, Adam Afifi, Jack Landgraf and Philip York. They were selected from among 10 finalist teams across the country that participated in a rigorous multi-month process requiring them to develop innovative, research-based solutions to challenges at the nexus of food, energy and water systems.

The 10 teams spent last week attending a four-day innovation “boot camp” in Arlington, VA during which they received feedback on their presentations and met with experts on subjects including team-based design, communicating the value of innovation and transitioning research to commercialization.
The boot camp included a visit to the U.S. Capitol yesterday where teams had the chance to present their projects to members of Congress and legislative staff.

The Forsyth Tech team’s innovation addressed modernizing today’s greenhouses to fit individual customer needs by incorporating the use of renewable, cost-efficient energy sources through the use of nanotechnology.

“This national distinction places a tremendous shining star on our nanotech students’ résumés,” says Michael Ayers, dean of Math, Science, & Technologies. “It validates the type of innovative programming that Forsyth Tech offers, which few other colleges across the country can match.” He continued, “This experience places our students on the bleeding edge of science by encouraging research and innovation that is usually associated with four-year universities. We are so proud of them!”

“The national attention we have received from participation in this Innovation Challenge will open doors to our students and Forsyth Tech,” says Dr. Mehrdad Tajkarimi, the students’ nanotechnology instructor. “It will make it easier for our students to obtain jobs and for the college to gain partners who could potentially help bring this and other innovations to market.”

The NSF, in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), developed the CCIC competition as a way to foster development of crucial innovation skills among students in one of the nation’s most significant academic sectors. Community colleges play an important role in developing America’s technical workforce, in part by involving groups traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.

“The Community College Innovation Challenge presented these students with real-world questions that the scientific community is working to answer,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF assistant director for Education and Human Resources. “It has been gratifying to see how enthusiastically all of this year’s participants have responded to that challenge. These winning teams are emblematic of the kinds of quality entries we received.”

Team members include (l to r) Jack Landgraf, Philip York, Shannon Coalson, Adam Afifi and nanotechnology instructor, Dr. Mehrdad Tajkarimi.
Team members include (l to r) Jack Landgraf, Philip York, Shannon Coalson, Adam Afifi and nanotechnology instructor, Dr. Mehrdad Tajkarimi.

Other winning teams and their projects included:
Normandale Community College, Minnesota: Wastewater Hydrokinetic Turbine
Virginia Western Community College, Virginia: Efficient Mechanical Collection Method of Recovering Waste Apples
Northeast Community College, Nebraska: CROP-IT Solution to Regulate Irrigation Equipment
Perimeter College at Georgia State University, Georgia: Autonomous Technology Lake Algae Skimmer
Tulsa Community College, Oklahoma: Automated Microfluidic Colorimetry Lab for Aquaponic Monitoring (AMCLAM)
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Wisconsin: Junk Yard Generator
Henry Ford College, Michigan: Rescue Restaurant Food Waste to Address Hunger
Red Rocks Community College, Colorado: Cooling Tower Blow Down Water Conservation
Bucks County Community College, Pennsylvania: The Wind Catcher Max Wind Tower


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