MCC Students gain STEM experience via National Science Foundation Community College Innovation Challenge

Megan Garvy, Larissa Pokam Epse Takou Kuitche, Gabriella Sanchez, Kaylor Davis and Madeleine Chowdhury. Megan Garvy, Larissa Pokam Epse Takou Kuitche, Gabriella Sanchez, Kaylor Davis and Madeleine Chowdhury. MESA, Arizona – April 10, 2018 – Four Mesa Community College (MCC) students learned the process of transforming ideas into reality by participating in the Community College Innovation Challenge, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

The Challenge is a prestigious, two-stage competition where community college teams use science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to innovate solutions to real-world problems. The students compete for cash awards and earn opportunities to attend a summer Innovation Boot Camp in Washington, D.C.

In 2009, public and private sectors combined spent $9 billion on grid modernization. The MCC students -- Kaylor Davis, Samantha Ehrle, Larissa Pokam Epse Takou Kuitche and Gabriella Sanchez -- hypothesized that this effort missed the key factors of engaging and educating customers.

The MCC students estimated targeting consumer behavior would have a 20 percent potential impact on energy savings. To affect consumer behavior, the team developed an app targeted toward female millennials to monitor and share energy consumption via a social media platform.

Faculty mentor Madeleine Chowdhury, MCC professor of mathematics and computer science; Megan Garvy, educational support, MCC Center for Teaching and Learning; and industry partner Sabra Manna, vice president of Business and Vendor Management, American Express Technologies, guided students on the development of their Challenge submission.

"I was the industry partner in this STEM project and was able to provide the group (of ladies) an industry perspective - for example, how to think about customers and market segments, and how to make sure technology was a key part of their solution," said Manna. "The benefit to the students was that they got perspective from an experienced industry professional, which complemented their academic curriculum and viewpoint." 

Chowdhury said this is one of the best undergraduate research experiences in which she has been involved.

“The young ladies on the team have so much passion and grit - really daring boldly to do something that not many students do,” Chowdhury said. “This was truly an attempt to solve a real problem with significant impact to the world. We're hopeful to take it beyond the academic realm.”

The MCC team spent nearly 100 hours on the project and submitted a written entry and a 90-second video. Entries will be vetted by STEM innovation experts. Up to 10 finalist teams will be selected to attend the Boot Camp and compete for first and second place.

MCC student Gabriella Sanchez said the challenge provided her with insight into the research process as well as the preparation for potential development and implementation stages of a startup group.

“In addition to enhanced academic skills, I gained immeasurable experience with teamwork, time management and even acting in front of a video camera for our 90-second video submission,” Sanchez said. “I will undoubtedly carry over these skills to future classes, jobs and research endeavors. It was a thrill to work on this project and, despite the overwhelming time commitment, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

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Media contact: Dawn Zimmer,, 480-461-7892

Mesa Community College is nationally recognized for service-learning, career and technical programs, civic engagement and innovative approaches to higher education. The college serves as a resource for career readiness, transfer education, workforce development and lifelong learning. Host to more than 30,000 students annually, MCC offers more than 150 degree and certificate programs at its two campuses and additional locations. MCC is an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution with a diverse student body that enriches the learning experience. Renowned faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training that empowers MCC students to compete locally and nationally. MCC, located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, is one of 10 colleges comprising the Maricopa County Community College District. For additional information visit

Mesa Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA)

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Publication Date: 
Tuesday, April 10, 2018