Engineering Club - Finalist in National Competition

Engineering Club - Finalist in National Competition

Andrea Byerly
Friday, August 25, 2023 12:00 AM
Community, All, Press Releases, Academics

CLEVELAND, TN - Students in the Cleveland State Community College Engineering Club were finalists in the Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC) and traveled to Washington D.C. in June to participate in the national competition. One of 12 teams selected to attend the competition, they were the only team from Tennessee.

In its seventh year, the competition seeks to strengthen entrepreneurial thinking among community college students by challenging them to develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) based solutions to real-world problems. Sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges and the National Science Foundation, CCIC enables students to discover and demonstrate their capacity to use STEM to make a difference in the world and translate that knowledge into action.

The Cleveland State team consisted of two students, Kylie Burgess and Jack Pettigrew, and a faculty mentor, Kimberly Harrington. The team traveled to Washington D.C. for the all-expense paid competition and Innovation Boot Camp. Their project was Bottle to Model: PET Plastics Solution, an apparatus that turns plastic bottles into 3D printer filament. The design showed how large volumes of bottles could be recycled and turned into 3D printer filament at low cost and with minimal prep work by the user.

During the boot camp, the team interacted with entrepreneurs and experts in business planning, stakeholder engagement, strategic communication and marketplace dynamics. The boot camp culminated in a Student Innovation Poster Session on Capitol Hill with STEM leaders and Congressional stakeholders and a pitch presentation to determine the winning team.

Although the Cleveland State team did not win the competition, they each received a $500 scholarship award for being a finalist. The competition was the main focus for the Engineering Club during the 2022-2023 school year. Club members worked together to create and design the innovative project. Club president, Kylie Burgess, led the team once the faculty club advisor, Darrell Oakley, introduced the competition.

“Kylie and Jack did an amazing job with their project,” said faculty mentor Kimberly Harrington. “It was truly a student-led experience; they developed the concept, conducted all the research, designed the model, and wrote everything involved with the presentations. Their engineering professor and I were there for guidance and moral support, but all of Kylie and Jack's success is theirs and theirs only. We couldn't be prouder of them.”

Burgess enjoyed the trip and took time to network with other teams from across the country. She said, “You get to meet all these people who are really ambitious and driven and focused on ‘how can I make a difference in the world.’ That was really cool, just getting to meet the other students and also the other mentors and hearing about what they are working on.”

Pettigrew also enjoyed connecting with the other teams. He said, “It was so much fun just getting to meet other like-minded individuals. It felt like everybody wanted to learn from each other. Everybody was super friendly and personable. It was great.”

An electrical engineering major, Burgess will graduate in May 2024 and plans to transfer to a four-year university. After this experience, she is thinking more seriously about pursuing her dream of earning a PhD in quantum physics.

A drafting and design major, Pettigrew already has a part-time remote position for a logistics company in Alabama. He plans to graduate in December 2024 and continue working with the company in engineering support.  

Harrington added, “I also had the opportunity to connect with other mentors and attend presentations on opportunities with the National Science Foundation and American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). My experience there has already led to my applying for, and being awarded, a MentorLinks grant through the AACC. It was a positive experience for all of us.”

(Photo credit: AACC/


Partners & Initiatives

  • Cleveland Bradley Business Incubator
  • America's SBDC Tennesseey
  • Your Skills. Your Future.
  • OneSource
  • Cleveland State Sustainability Initiative
  • TBR The College System of Tennessee
  • TN eCampus
  • Tennessee Transfer Pathway