Pasadena City College Team Places First in National Community College Innovation Challenge

Led by AACC and NSF, the competition seeks to create STEM solutions to real-world challenges that benefit society

Pasadena City College placed first out of the 12 finalist teams that participated in the final phase of the Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC), an annual national competition, powered by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in partnership with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). CCIC seeks to advance student impact through STEM solutions to real-world challenges that foster the development of students’ innovation, research, and entrepreneurial skills. 

Teams for the CCIC consist of two to four students and a faculty or administrator mentor. The challenge requires teams to assess their innovation’s potential impact, identify its scientific and market feasibility and determine its societal relevance. 

The Pasadena City College team consists of the following students and faculty:

  • Dr. Jared Ashcroft (Mentor)
  • Kit Cheung
  • Kirk Dolar
  • Sophia Ibarguen
  • Richard Lu

Working together, oftentimes remotely due to COVID-19, the team was able to develop an innovative, effective means to use targeted photo immunotherapy against specific cancer cells while also combating the symbiotic relationship between cancer and bacteria that promotes cancer proliferation. . Their “NanoBio mAB: A Nanoparticle-Antibody Cancer Therapeutic” project abstract explains it well:

“Cancer is one of the leading causes of death all over the world, with nearly ten million children and adults worldwide dying every year. By 2040, the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 29.5 million and the number of cancer-related deaths is expected to rise to 16.4 million. Antibody conjugated nanoparticles have a multitude of uses in cancer and infectious disease identification and treatment at the cellular level. Gold nanoparticles are commonly used in photothermal nano therapies due to their stable, non-toxic, and non-immunogenic nature. Silver nanoparticles have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal properties, and anticancer properties. The NanoBio mAB is a gold@silver nanoparticle hybrid that capitalizes on the ideal properties of both the gold and silver nanoparticles so that together they maximize efficacy in treating cancer. Conjugation to cell specific monoclonal antibodies (mABs) will provide an effective means for targeted photo immunotherapy to specific cancer cells while also combating the symbiotic relationship between cancer and bacteria that promotes cancer proliferation. Overall, the NanoBio mAB will revolutionize cancer therapies, providing a multifaceted approach in the treatment of cancer.”

On June 14, twelve finalist teams entered a week-long virtual innovation boot camp, learning from industry experts on how to understand the marketability of their innovation, how to communicate effectively about their work, and participated in mock interviews and elevator pitches to hone their message and presentation skills. Teams presented their innovations in a Student Innovation Showcase engaging with STEM leaders and Congressional stakeholders and led 5-minute pitch presentations in front of a panel of industry professionals for a cash prize. 

Started in 2015, CCIC was created to broaden community college participation in STEM and innovation to prepare students for meaningful employment in the high-technology fields that drive our nation’s economy. To learn more about CCIC, visit or follow the hashtag #CCIChallenge2021 for updates on Twitter. More information is also available on the NSF news page: NSF, AACC announce 2021 Community College Innovation Challenge winners.

NOTE: Some of these same students were part of a team that just submitted another research project: Undergraduate Researchers Share Tools To Help Students Understand Statistics.  May include this link because it is good to link internally between posts.