Jan 11, 2016

FVCC Foundation Awards Nearly $50,000 for 2016 Innovative Projects and Student Travel

Foundation Awards
FVCC Associate Professor of Biology Ruth Wrightsman accepts Enhancement Grant award from FVCC Foundation Board member Diane Morton.

The Foundation at Flathead Valley Community College recently announced awards totaling $48,520 to FVCC faculty and staff for innovative projects that shift learning experiences and for student travel to national and regional conferences for competitions and to present research.

Thanks to one of these grants, students from the electrical technology, agriculture and heavy equipment operator programs will collaborate on a solar energy installation project this spring that will ultimately reduce the college’s electricity bill.

Electrical technology students will design and install a photovoltaic system that captures solar energy and converts it to electricity for the Agriculture building on campus. Heavy equipment operator students will perform the project’s excavation services, and agriculture students will assist with laying conduit pipe for the wiring.

“This project will allow all students involved to gain valuable hands-on experience,” said FVCC Director of Career and Technical Education Pete Wade. “Photovoltaics is a growing industry in Montana, and this project will better prepare our students to work with the latest technology in this field.”

Now in its 11th year, the Foundation’s Enhancement Grant program has provided seed money for successful programs including The Culinary Institute of Montana’s Chef’s Table program and The Scholars program at FVCC.  It continues to provide resources for new and entrepreneurial initiatives through proceeds from Festival of Flavors fundraising events.  All the grants are made possible by the generosity of the businesses, organizations and individuals who support Foundation events and make donations to programs.

Enhancement Grants were also awarded for the following projects:

“Project Sandbox – Exploring Topography through Augmented Reality”
Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Natural Resources Tim Eichner, students will build an augmented reality sandbox that will allow students and the public to interact with a miniature landscape and create topographical models to be scanned into a computer. This technology will improve students’ knowledge about digital elevation models and geomorphological processes.

“Cyanobacteria in the Glaciers of Glacier National Park”
Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Biology Ruth Wrightsman, biotechnology students will conduct original research using molecular methods to characterize blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) from Glacier National Park. Students will report the results of their findings to Glacier National Park biologists.  Results will also be entered into a searchable database for research projects conducted in national parks.

“MCTM Regional Math Contest”
Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Math Laura VanDeKop, the college will host the regional MCTM Math Contest for local high school students this spring, providing the facility and coordinating test proctoring for students.

“Outdoor Salt”
Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Art David Regan, ceramics students will build an outdoor kiln utilizing special bricks that allow for salt firing, a process that produces beautiful atmospheric results.  Occupational trades students will construct the frame of the kiln.

“Makerspace Kit”
Makerspace kits are being used to engage K-12 students in critical thinking exercises while feeding the inner spirit of those who enjoy making and learning. Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Computer Applications Dawn Rauscher, instructional technology students will learn how to use this emerging technology, create lesson plans centered on the kit’s tools and implement the lessons in local K-12 classrooms around the Flathead Valley.

The Center for Manufacturing Advancement at FVCC will subscribe to the online educational resource EduFactor and share relevant curriculum and materials with occupational trades instructors at local high schools.

“Tablet Computers for Paramedic Students”
Under the direction of FVCC Associate Professor of Paramedicine and Emergency Management Kris Long, paramedicine students will have access to iPad Air tablets to document their skills and patient contacts in real time at the clinical site.

“Strange Snow”
The FVCC Theatre Department will produce “Strange Snow” by Stephan Metcalf in February, a three-person cast featuring well-known local actors Nick and Rebecca Spear. Proceeds from the production will be dedicated to providing scholarships to students.

In addition to grants for innovative projects, travel grants were approved for students in early childhood education, biology, biotechnology, chemistry and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

For more information on Enhancement Grants or the FVCC Foundation, contact Colleen Unterreiner at or 756-3914.