CFCC Faculty Member Receives National Science Foundation Grant

Cape Fear Community College is pleased to announce that one of its faculty members has recently been awarded a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Last October, CFCC Chemical Technology instructor, Tracy Holbrook, submitted a grant proposal to the NSF in the Division of Undergraduate Education.  This proposal targeted the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program that focuses on the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drives the nation’s economy.   
Cape Fear Community College is new to the ATE program.  Falling into this specialized category, CFCC is among an elite group of 15 awards nationwide.  The $150,000 award was the maximum budget that could be requested by an institution new to the ATE program.     
According to the NSF database, only 40 proposals have been awarded to community colleges in the state of North Carolina since 1969.  The last NSF award CFCC received was in 1969 in the amount of $13,325.  This year, CFCC was the only N.C. community college to receive a grant from the ATE program. 
“We are very excited about working with the NSF.  More importantly, we are very excited about improving the quality of education that students will receive within our own program.  With the help of this grant, CFCC will be one of the few community colleges in the state of North Carolina with this latest technology,” Holbrook.
The grant is multi-faceted and will be used:
  • To improve CFCC’s chemical technology curriculum by introducing state-of-the-art laboratory equipment; this will help students learn skills and techniques which will make them more employable after graduation. The equipment will replicate the same instruments that are used in the commercial chemical industry.
  • To provide professional development opportunities through specialized classes for all CFCC science faculty and support staff – including K-12 educators from local public and private schools.
  • Allow CFCC students to perform an annual in-depth water study to residents in the local area.
For more details, here is a brief abstract of the project:
Project “Ways to Amplify Teaching and Education in Regard to Science” (W.A.T.E.R.S.), in conjunction with the Chemical Technology Program at CFCC, is enhancing student learning by strongly reinforcing difficult theoretical concepts in the laboratory environment through the use of state-of-the-art equipment commonly found in an industrial job environment. Students are gaining hands-on training on the use and operation of a Purge & Trap Gas Chromatography system coupled with a mass spectrometer (GC/MS) and an ion chromatography (IC) system.
Students are learning how to: follow standardized methods enforced by regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), carry out multifaceted and advanced experiments, interpret chromatograms and mass spectra data, and operate computer-based instrumentation. Results from project W.A.T.E.R.S. are showing that fundamental changes within a science curriculum involving laboratory objectives coupled with appropriate discussions on theoretical concepts allows STEM students to clearly understand advances within the scientific field. Project W.A.T.E.R.S. is providing professional development opportunities to Cape Fear Community College faculty and local K-12 STEM educators. Under-represented groups in the STEM community are benefitting through the introduction of new instrumentation that is allowing students to become more competitive in today’s job market and/or to provide a better transition to a research-intensive university.  The project will also help support an annual in-depth water study for the community that will monitor over 80% of EPA’s regulated primary and secondary contaminants. 
CFCC’s two-year chemical technology program trains students to become laboratory technicians and entry-level chemists within the state of North Carolina.