Ivy Tech Students Among Ten National Science Foundation Finalists

SOUTH BEND, IN – A group of Ivy Tech Community College students are among ten finalists competing in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC)—a STEM-based contest designed for community colleges students. Their innovative proposal: a device that detects human waste contamination in water within hours instead of days.

Typically, officials responsible for closing public beaches or swimming areas wait several days for results to reveal whether or not harmful levels of bacteria exist, leaving their citizens at risk of exposure. But, students in George Twaddle’s biotechnology class believe targeting specific genes of the bacteria E. coli using a biosensor will shorten the lag time between testing and confirming results from days to hours.

“It’s the students in our introductory biotechnology class that came up with this potentially life-saving idea,” said George Twaddle, Ivy Tech’s Biotechnology program chair, “and that’s the important thing to note about this.”

Twaddle, a staunch advocate for bringing—and applying—creativity to science, teaches his students through research. He notes competitions like the CCIC capture the higher-level thinking skills educational professionals want students to attain.

“Our students are learning through research, collaborative learning and application. They are documenting, hypothesizing, testing and answers their questions,” said Twaddle.

It comes as no surprise for this group of students to make it to the final round. They recently won a silver medal for this proposed device at M.I.T.’s annual International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition last fall—standing alongside 225 international teams including Harvard, M.I.T., and Oxford.

In June, the Ivy Tech team will head to Washington, DC to participate in a three-day Innovation Boot Camp. This professional development workshop on innovation and entrepreneurship will hone skills applicable to commercializing their idea, using technology for social applications, communicating with stakeholders and creating business strategies.

For full details on the contest, visit the challenge website for the full eligibility criteria, entry guidelines, timeline and prize information. You may also watch the twenty semifinalist videos from which the 10 finalists were chosen at http://goo.gl/0vL3L8.

Ivy Tech Community College is the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system serving nearly 200,000 students annually. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its community along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.

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