Sierra College Showcases 2023 Cohort of Innovators

January 12, 2024
Fall 2023 i3 student cohort proudly display their certificates
The fall 2023 Sierra College i3 student cohort proudly display their Certificates of Participation.

i3 Students Proudly Presented Their Ideas, Celebrated Their Accomplishments

Innovation and entrepreneurship are in-demand skills that students want to hone and employers want to hire.

At Sierra College, students are building them through the pilot Invention and Inclusive Innovation (i3) cohort and student showcase, an exciting finale where they present their ideas to faculty, community business members and entrepreneurs. 

Sierra’s cohort enrolled in three classes that integrated specific skill sets: Social Entrepreneurship, 21st Century Skills, and Rapid Prototyping. The showcase event – held in December – featured four unique team presentations, each addressing a special community need or social venture with the support of the Western Placer Waste Management Authority (WPWMA). 

The presenting teams were: 

  • “Ghost Power,” with Vincent Amihan, Jeffrey Serpa, Manual Hernandez and Duncan Arnett; 
  • “Recycle Think,” with Andrea Gutierrez; 
  • “Styrofarm,” with Claudio Aravena, Emily Combs, Killian Lesher and Simon Leonard; 
  • “Clean & Go,” with Christiaan Myburgh, Caleb Caudill and Jean Bikindou; and 
  • “Datewise,” with Rel Schoonover and Sorayda Maldonado. 

“It is inspiring to see the i3 Program students so excited about innovation and manufacturing creative solutions for tackling some of the problems in the waste and recycling industry,” said Emily Hoffman, Public Information Assistant at WPWMA. “We were honored to give these students a peek behind the curtain as they toured our facility to learn how waste is sorted, processed and recycled in Placer County.”

She added, “There’s a very bright future for our region with programs like i3 at Sierra College.”  

The i3 program is a collaboration between the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and the Lemelson-MIT Program, modeled after the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams. The InvenTeams are groups of high school students, educators, and mentors that invent technological solutions to real-world problems of their own choosing. 

Schoonover of the Datewise team encouraged other students to participate in future cohorts by saying, “Keep an open mind, let go of barriers. This is a great opportunity.” 

Caudill of the Clean & Go team added, “If you want to be an entrepreneur or run a business, this is [the program] you need to take.” 

Sierra College is one of only four California Community Colleges in partnership with Lemelson-MIT to offer this program, which invites students into the world of social entrepreneurship and innovation while helping them grow their workforce readiness skills. 

Gutierrez of the Recycle Think team said, “You don’t need to forget who you are to be who you are. You can draw here and you can create here.” 

“The best part of this year’s iteration was to watch how a group of diverse and incredibly talented students can come together in a learning community within a 16-week period, grow exponentially, and create complex, viable prototypes to solve an urgent community problem,” said Denis Bushnell, Sierra College faculty member and i3 program coordinator. 

Starting in fall 2024, the i3 learning community concept will transform from a cohort model into an individual, formal non-credit Certificate of Completion class called Entrepreneurship for Makers. The certificate will consist of three courses: Starting a Small Business; Essential Skills (formerly 21st Century Skills); and Rapid Prototyping.   

More information about the i3 program at Sierra College, visit