Article Contributed to The Leader
West Hills College Coalinga team participates in National STEM Competition

A West Hills College Coalinga team will participate in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC), led by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The CCIC is a national competition that challenges community college student teams to use science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems.

West Hills College Coalinga's student team includes chemistry students Christine Gomez, Katelyn Hicks, Janice Martinez, and Kevin Orrala. The team will be mentored by Zach Soto, WHCC Director of MESA, and Dr. Ken Henry, WHCC Chemistry Instructor.

The WHCC team will present their innovation, The Cr-3 Electric Battery, at the upcoming Innovation Boot Camp, to be held in Alexandria, VA, from June 12-15, 2023. The boot camp provides professional development, mentoring, and coaching to build strategic communication and entrepreneurial skills to help students advance their innovations in the private and public sectors.

The West Hills College Coalinga MESA program is crucial in preparing students for competitions like the Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC) by providing the necessary resources and support to develop their STEM skills and knowledge. MESA's academic counseling, tutoring, and career exploration services equip students with the tools to excel in their coursework and apply their learning to real-world problems like those presented in the CCIC.

The program's emphasis on research and internships also helps students gain practical experience and exposure to industry professionals, which can be invaluable in the competition. By fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for STEM students, the MESA program at West Hills College Coalinga is helping to shape the next generation of innovative problem-solvers and entrepreneurs.

"We are extremely excited to be participating in the CCIC competition and to showcase the talents of our students," said Soto. "The CCIC is an excellent opportunity for our students to demonstrate their capacity to use STEM to make a difference in the world and translate that knowledge into action. I look forward to supporting them as they develop their ideas."

The Cr-3 Electric Battery is a unique and eco-friendly rechargeable battery containing nickel sulfamate and barium, designed as a cost-effective alternative to gasoline. The battery is non-toxic and easily accessible, making it a sustainable solution to current environmental concerns.

The CCIC event culminates in a poster session and engagement opportunity with STEM leaders and Congressional stakeholders on Capitol Hill, followed by a pitch presentation in front of a panel of industry and entrepreneurial professionals. The panel will determine the winning teams' first, second, and third place.

"I am proud to see our students creating innovative solutions to address environmental concerns, such as The Cr-3 Electric Battery," said West Hills College Coalinga President Dr. Carla Tweed. "We are proud to be a part of this national competition and look forward to seeing the positive impact our students will make with their ground-breaking ideas."

West Hills College Coalinga looks forward to the upcoming competition and the opportunity to showcase The Cr-3 Electric Battery to the nation's STEM leaders and stakeholders.