This past spring, a team of four Pre-Engineering students earned selection as a finalist in the Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC) Boot Camp at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Va.

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) hosted this all-expenses paid event in partnership with the NSF. Innovation Boot Camp provided a hands-on learning opportunity for 10 finalist teams to further develop their ideas/innovations through workshops and technical assistance focused on building innovation, entrepreneurship and strategic communication skills as they proposed solutions to perplexing real-world problems.

(Left to right) Ibraheem Nadeem (Pre-Engineering and Honor student), Maria Hanna (Pre-Engineering and Honor student), Isauro Sanchez (Pre-Engineering student), Omar Dahbali (Pre-Engineering student and President of the HFC Engineering Club), and Hassan Nameghi (Pre-Engineering Coordinator).

More than 40 percent of undergraduate students are enrolled at community colleges throughout the United States. Groups underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as first-generation college students, make up a significant portion of students on community college campuses. NSF-funded projects at community colleges support STEM students transferring to four-year colleges. In addition, NSF-supported projects help students receive education and training to become part of the high-tech workforce. This includes fields as diverse as biotechnology, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing.

Based on the creative potential of these students, the NSF invited teams of community college students to identify key problems and propose innovative solutions in areas with potential for solving some of America’s most daunting challenges: big data, infrastructure security, sustainability (including water, food, energy, and environment) and broadening participation in STEM fields. HFC’s team developed a project called “Real-Time Accident Detection on Michigan Highways.” They are currently developing a computerized accident detection system for Michigan highways. The traffic data captured by thousands of video cameras across Michigan can be processed into image pixels using Image Processing Software (IPS).

Computer models, including traffic simulation models, simulate different scenarios of road congestion and decrease in road access due to an accident. If this is successfully implemented, it will have countless benefits in areas such as economics, society, industry and science. It will reduce traffic delay, disruption, and casualties after a vehicular accident. In addition, it will contribute to faster movements of goods and people, which directly lead to a better economy. It will benefit society by providing a safer and less stressful environment. A reduction in accident response time will also result in less traffic jams, less air pollution and less gas consumption.

The NSF distributed $500 to each team to assist with the development of their displays, models and/or prototypes for this event. The 10 teams displayed their projects as part of a reception that took place on Capitol Hill in the Rayburn House Office building in June. Invitees included congressional members who met with teams to learn about their ideas and proposed solutions.

Innovation Boot Camp furthers the NSF’s mission by enabling students to discover and demonstrate their ingenuity to use science to make a difference in the world and transfer knowledge into action. To see video of the HFC student team project, please visit http://youtu.be/DXSLL4KuTYY.