It is one thing to have an idea in theory and quite another to test it out in the real world.
Students in Red Rocks Community College's Innovations in STEM Education (RISE) program have a new lab in which to work its ideas thanks to Xcel …
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Students in Red Rocks Community College's Innovations in STEM Education (RISE) program have a new lab in which to work its ideas thanks to Xcel Energy.
The company awarded RISE a $15,000 grant to fund its IDEA Lab — a space where students can work collaboratively on real-world projects. It features workshops on engineering design, clinics on 3-D printing, technical mentoring and resource assistance.
"It's part tinkering, collaborative work space and mentoring area," said Elizabeth Cox, director of the RISE program. "We want our students to be able to work on real problems here."
Cox said the lab launched last semester and students and instructors have already used it to tackle some innovative projects.
"Liz found a NSF (National Science Foundation) competition for community colleges to create a human-centered design," said instructor Jeremy Beard. "We're working on a printable water filtration device for people all over the world."
The project goes through several phases, Beard explained. There is the discovery phase were students do research and talk to experts about the topic and current technologies, then they come up with ideas and build a prototype, then go back and refine it.
"The big focus for us was tackling a real world problem, and there are millions of people dying because they have water but it's not clean," said student Lauren Pott. "We wanted the filters to work for people in remote areas and so we're using different filters that people all over the world can find without having to pay for them."
Some of the filters the group is working with include charcoal and sand, and they are using ultraviolet rays as well. Pott and students Karla Sanchez, David Duncan, Josh Boucher and Kristina Robbins interviewed former refugees and water experts while they were working on their prototypes. They are still tinkering but expect to start testing soon.
"What I like best about the lab is that it is our space. It's open for us when we need it," she said. "It's been an awesome experience to see what the real life design process is like."
Beard said the IDEA Lab is a great way to get more students interested in STEM, because it allows them to take ownership of their ideas.
"We want to help create a more innovative workforce and here we're turning ideas into meaningful practice," Cox said.For more information, visit www.rrcc.edu/rise.
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