Lakewood, CO— Red Rocks Community College Foundation has received a $15,000 grant from the Xcel Energy Foundation. The grant will support the work of the IDEA Institute to pilot an engineering design challenge for local high schools to develop a solution to a real-world issue around food, energy and water.
Funding from this grant will be used to develop workshops for hands-on STEM and multimedia, as well as holding a competition in Spring 2018. Engineering faculty and students in the IDEA Lab at Red Rocks will support the high school teams.
“Our goal for the Engineering and Innovation Design Challenge is to demonstrate to high school students how STEM education is applied to real world projects and how engineering is relevant to local and global challenges,” says Liz Cox, Director of IDEA Institute. “Through our work in the IDEA Lab, the center for engineering at Red Rocks, we know that open-ended real world projects challenge students to think critically, creatively, and collaboratively.”
The long-term outcome of this effort is to increase the STEM workforce with highly skilled, innovative, and diverse individuals. Jeremy Beard, IDEA Lab faculty, explained, “IDEA Lab projects that find an innovative solution to create a better world, such as a solar-powered well-pump that we designed for a community in Mali, West Africa, attract a diverse set of students, especially women and underrepresented students.”
The Engineering and Innovation Design Challenge will work with high school teachers to plan and develop the challenge so that it can be implemented in various STEM classes in high schools. The IDEA Institute staff and teachers will develop categories that require STEM-based solutions to solve local and global community problems. The categories will include the design challenge parameters that the solution must adhere to, links to helpful resources, and budget considerations. The IDEA Lab will develop workshops to support high school students in developing skills such as designing a prototype using 3D printing, programming, soldering, and multimedia presentation.
“Red Rocks Community College is a great institution of higher learning,” said Preston Gibson, Area Manager, Xcel Energy Community Relations. “It is truly a pleasure to support programs that bring more students into STEM fields since these areas will lead to well-paying jobs when they graduate.” Gibson is a longtime proponent of quality education and served on Red Rocks President’s Advisory Council for almost 10 years. In addition to the grant, Xcel Energy employees support the RRCC Foundation as volunteer scholarship reviewers.
“Having a chance to participate in a design challenge to benefit women farmers in Mali was a deeply rewarding experience,” said Melissa, a Red Rocks alumna now studying engineering. “I gained invaluable experience in real world, innovative problem-solving, teamwork, communication, and how engineering can be directly applied to collaborating with communities, local and abroad. It is my hope that high school students can share in that experience so they can see another side of engineering.” Melissa is currently a student at the Colorado School of Mines studying Environmental and Humanitarian Engineering.
About Red Rocks Community College: Established in 1969, Red Rocks Community College delivers high-quality, affordable education programs leading to two-year degrees or professional certificates. The college serves over 10,000 students per year online and at two campus locations in Lakewood and Arvada. www.rrcc.edu.