Sierra College Tapped for New Statewide Initiative to Catalyze Innovation and Invention to Solve Social Challenges

March 3, 2021

Community Invited to Become Social Enterprise Inventors

Sierra College announced today that it has joined the California Community College Chancellor’s Office to launch a bold initiative to encourage, harness, and develop the inventive talents of communities across the State. The goal of the Invention and Inclusive Innovation (I³) initiative is to catalyze innovation and invention to solve social problems that existed before COVID-19 and those that have been created or amplified by the pandemic.

“The Invention and Inclusion Innovation (I³) initiative will empower students from diverse backgrounds who might not see themselves in an entrepreneurial role and prepare them for an evolving and innovative future,” said Sierra College Superintendent/President Willy Duncan. “We are excited about providing our students with this opportunity and for the opportunity to include our community partners in this initiative.”

Faculty at Sierra College will be one of four colleges statewide tapped to develop a program prototype that will guide learners on a path to discovery and facilitating the invention of new products that solve community problems for larger social good.

Learners will work in teams to:

  • Research challenges experienced by communities;
  • Conceptualize systemic or technological solutions;
  • Develop working prototypes through the invention process; and
  • Learn to commercialize their inventions while keeping the social benefit at the forefront.

“This initiative aims to spark innovation in every region of the State to address small challenges that impact dozens of people to big challenges that are disrupting the lives of thousands of people,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.

The I³ program is a collaboration between the 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. The InvenTeams initiative has been changing teaching and learning and providing young people with creative problem-solving skills to flourish in college and career for over 15 years, including having received patents for their high school projects. A full list can be found here.

“This initiative centers deep and meaningful collaboration between students, faculty, and community partners in order to develop innovative solutions to student-identified community issues and build sustained transdisciplinary approaches to addressing our communities’ needs,” said Lynn Harrison-Benavidez, Professor, Mathematics at Sierra College.

As one of the most diverse systems of higher education, California community colleges will increase access to invention education to women and communities of color who have historically been underrepresented in the innovation and invention economy, but whose life experiences provide valuable insights and perspectives to tackle systemic changes.

Sierra College will join the following colleges during the prototype stage:

  • Modesto Community College in the Modesto, Yosemite Community College District;
  • Chaffey Community College in the Rancho Cucamonga, Chaffey Community College District; and
  • College of the Desert in the Palm Desert, Desert Community College District

Student recruitment for the initial I³ prototype will take place in Spring 2021 and the program is expected to be scaled to 20 additional colleges for implementation in 2022.

About Sierra College

The Sierra Joint Community College District is rising to the needs of our community. Sierra College serves 3,200 square miles of Northern CA with campuses in Roseville, Rocklin, Grass Valley, and Truckee. With approximately 125 degree and certificate programs, Sierra College is ranked first in Northern California (Sacramento north) for transfers to four-year universities, offers career/technical training, and classes for upgrading job skills. Sierra graduates can be found in businesses and industries throughout the region. More information at

About the California Community Colleges

The California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the nation, composed of 73 districts and 116 colleges serving 2.1 million students annually. California community colleges provide career education and workforce training; guaranteed transfer to four-year universities; degree and certificate pathways; and basic skills education in English and math. As the state’s engine for social and economic mobility, the California Community Colleges supports the Vision for Success, a strategic plan designed to improve student success outcomes, increase transfer rates and eliminate achievement gaps. For more information, please visit the California Community Colleges website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Lemelson-MIT Program

The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention. The program was founded in 1994 by Jerome H. Lemelson, one of the U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by the Lemelson Foundation and administered by the School of Engineering at MIT, an institution with a strong ongoing commitment to creating meaningful opportunities for K-12 STEM education.