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NextFlex Hosts its First-ever National FlexFactor® Finals

by Cole Williams, National Project Manager

On June 17th, six student teams from across the nation competed for first, second, and third place honors in the first-ever National FlexFactor® Finals. The event was hosted virtually via Zoom Webinar, and student teams were tasked with presenting their flexible hybrid electronic-enabled product concept and business plan to a panel of representatives. This panel included NextFlex’s Executive Director, Dr. Malcolm Thompson; NASA Ames Research Center’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Karen Bradford; and East Mississippi Community College’s VP of Workforce and Economic Development, Dr. Courtney Taylor.

NextFlex’s community college partners selected each student team based on their innovative concepts and business plans. Participating colleges included Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (Cincinnati, OH), Cypress College (Cypress, CA), Drake State Community & Technical College (Huntsville, AL), Evergreen Valley College (San Jose, CA), Lorain County Community College (Elyria, OH), and Mission College (Santa Clara, CA).

As FlexFactor continues to expand throughout the country, National FlexFactor Finals is designed to bring the various communities together to celebrate the best ideas and work of each ecosystem’s students. Each team is given 4 minutes and 15 seconds to pitch their presentation and are judged by the panelists for their product overview and underlying technology, business plan, slide deck, verbal pitch, connection with the panel, originality, and materials.

A summary of the winning projects. Click to open the image in a new tab.

The top three product concepts included: (first) a thin, discrete, reliable wristband that measures patients’ biometrics to detect seizure activity, (second) a manta ray shaped robot that collects plastics in the ocean for recycling use, and (third) a jellyfish-like robot that collects and disintegrates microplastics found in the ocean.

Several speakers presented at the event, including Nate Gholston, Boeing System Engineer; Kieran Moise, New Century Technology Demo High School student; Emily McGrath, NextFlex Director of Workforce Development; Dr. Malcolm J. Thompson, NextFlex Executive Director; and Deanna Strauss-Hersko, Lorain County Community College Manager of Career Technical Pathways & Programs.

Ms. Strauss-Hersko also received a special recognition for her outstanding impact on the next-generation workforce for Ohio. In her remarks, Ms. Strauss-Hersko said, “As a program manager for FlexFactor at Lorain County Community College and a national program advisor for FlexFactor in the Ohio expansion, I have literally seen hundreds of final pitch presentations and yet I never fail to be amazed at how our students step up, show up, and passionately challenge the adults around them to think critically about how we can better the world around us. The FlexFactor program is changing the way educators are getting students interested in STEM and CTE programs, and it’s also seamlessly aligning the needs of our business and industry partners to secondary and post-secondary education.”

The NextFlex Learning Programs team is already preparing for National FlexFactor Finals 2022. To learn more, visit the NextFlex Learning Programs page.