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News | Sept. 19, 2023

FlexFactor Collaboration Between Trenholm State and Auburn University Inspires Students

On July 27th, 2023, Trenholm State Community College in Montgomery, Alabama, hosted its FlexFactor Final Pitch event, at the end of a summer camp which took place on the Trenholm campus. 20 high school students participated in this Final Pitch event, which represented the culmination of the FlexFactor program. FlexFactor is a project-based learning program during which students are introduced to Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) and work in teams to research a real-world problem, conceptualize an FHE-enabled advanced hardware solution, create a business model to market their product, and then present their product and business plan in a final pitch to a panel of judges. 

Kecia Hampton, the Trenholm State Community College Dual Enrollment Coordinator and FlexFactor Program Manager, knew early on that she wanted FlexFactor participants to be connected to both Trenholm and Auburn University. Auburn University and Trenholm offer dual enrollment partnerships that allow for students to successfully utilize their credit hours from community colleges toward their Bachelor’s degree education at Auburn, and the Auburn University at Montgomery is closely located to Trenholm State Community College. Kecia explained, “I thought it would be important for the students to know about other options that are available to them after high school.” Additionally, she knew that “I wanted them to also see college students who are working on what they’re seeing in FlexFactor, and how what they’re learning can be applied and used.” 

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Kecia invited Dr. Masoud Mahjouri-Samani and his team at the LASE-END [Laser Assisted Science and Engineering – Emerging Nanomaterials and Devices] Research Lab at Auburn University to participate in the FlexFactor program. Dr. Mahjouri-Samani was pleased to partner with the Trenholm team during the FlexFactor pgroam. He explained, “We are excited and happy to help build the workforce of the future.” During the FlexFactor program, the LASE-END team provided videos and presentations to demonstrate their research and work in the latest developments in this advanced manufacturing field to the students. Additionally, Auburn graduate student, Aarsh Patel, was able to attend in-person as a Final Pitch panelist. Ms. Hampton reported that having a graduate student on their Final Pitch panel “gave the students a chance to connect with someone closer to their age who also represents the possibilities of what they could pursue in their own futures.” 

Aarsh, whose education at Auburn University began in 2019, and who is now working on researching printed electronics using unique technology as part of the LASE-END team, recounted that his experience participating as a Final Pitch panelist for the Trenholm FlexFactor program was “truly rewarding.” As a panelist, he asked questions of the student groups, provided feedback, and scored the student presentations. Aarsh explained that not only was he able to “share my experiences with students and witness their enthusiasm for innovation,” but that “It was a joy to provide feedback and encouragement to these young minds, inspiring them to pursue their dreams fearlessly.” Mr. Patel also shared that this experience was also very beneficial for him, in that “It rekindled my own passion for exploration and pushed me to strive for further excellence in my field of study.” 

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Through participating in Trenholm’s FlexFactor program, students were able to learn about advanced technology, build skills essential to future employment, including teamwork and problem-solving, and gain exposure to the most current education and career paths. And, because of the partnership between Trenholm State Community College and Auburn University during this FlexFactor iteration, the student participants were also able to gain exposure to the amazing opportunities, such as the state-of-the-art LASE-END research lab, that are available for their future education in their own community.