NWTC students are among 10 finalists for national innovation challenge

Author: Casey M Fryda

Tuesday March 29, 2016
A team of NWTC students is among 10 national finalist teams in a National Science Foundation competition for sustainability innovations. And nearly every part of the project they submitted came from a landfill.
Students in two NWTC engineering programs are finalists in the NSF Community College Innovation Challenge. Five students in Manufacturing Engineering Technology and one from Environmental Engineering Technology built a “Junk Yard Generator” from an old TV screen and other discarded materials. (Video: See how it works) Their invention uses solar power to convert steam into electricity.
The students had been challenged by instructor Farris Saifkani to design and build a zero carbon emission Manufacturing Engineering and Environmental Engineering students honored for innovation by National Science Foundationsource of energy that will not pollute air or water and does not require non-renewable fuels. He required that they use materials that had already been discarded and would otherwise be landfilled.
“My vision for Manufacturing Engineering is to get them involved in a larger project and expose them to the challenge of meeting the world’s needs at the earliest stage in their education,” Saifkani said. “This was a great opportunity.”
Winning team members are Manufacturing Engineering Technology students Craig Rozek, Green Bay; Alexander Renish, Green Bay; Hans Turba, St. Anna; Steven Olson, Bonduel; Boris Bashkier, Cape Town, South Africa; and Environmental Engineering Technology student Brenda Staudenmaier, Green Bay.

Solar generator made from an old TV screenThe Innovation Challenge calls on students to address real-world problems by using their skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Finalist teams were chosen by the National Science Foundation and the American Association of Community Colleges. Finalists will travel to Washington DC for a CCIC Boot Camp June 20-23 for hands-on workshops where they can further develop their ideas, followed by a Congressional reception where they can present their ideas to decision-makers.
Staudenmaier said this was the first time she had ever worked on a zero-carbon-emission energy source. “It was fun working with such an innovative group at NWTC and bringing an idea to life. It was the experience of a lifetime.”
“The hardest part was staying true to the scope,” Renish said, “trying to use as many repurposed materials as possible.”
“We wanted to build something that anyone could do on a weekend after seeing it online,” Rozek agreed. “We did have to use one manufactured part because it’s housing steam and there’s a lot of energy behind it.”
Students said that the timeline was short, because they wanted to put the project together for a February event designed to encourage future students to choose engineering careers, but they never doubted they could solve the technical challenge.
“I definitely had my doubts when we had all the pieces and wanted to put it together for the Engineering Open House in February,” Turba said. “We had one week where we all had different schedules and some of the participants weren’t available at all. But none of the problems were ever so big that they would kill the project.”
NSF logo National Science FoundationThis 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.
"Community colleges provide a unique avenue for developing our STEM workforce and broadening participation," said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF's assistant director for Education and Human Resources, “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.”
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."
Students who participate in CCIC will contribute to this national effort, and benefit from prizes and professional development opportunities.
See a list of all finalists and their projects in the full National Science Foundation CCIC news release.

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