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TV Alabama Community College Wins Big at International Teaching Competition


TV Alabama Community College Wins Big at International Teaching Competition

For Immediate Release

TV Alabama Community College Wins Big at International Teaching Competition

ALEXANDER CITY, AL – November 22, 2023 – As autumn’s cool weather gently glided into Alabama, an international academic inferno was blazing on X—the social media site formerly known as Twitter. The 4th annual LatinXChem research poster competition was in full swing, with CACC’s Chemistry Department having submitted entries in both the organic chemistry and chemical education disciplines.

In both instances, CACC students played a central role in data collection and poster assembly.

“(During the competition) our students were glued to their phones. We faculty normally frown on students using social media in class,” said CACC Chemistry Instructor and Project Advisor Dr Jeremy M Carr. “But I think it was okay in this instance. They wanted to see what the judges thought of their projects.”

The contest, which lasted 48 hours beginning on October 16, required participants to share research project posters and interact with attendees and their projects. Meanwhile, judges virtually roamed through the exhibit asking questions and scoring entries.

“Our projects had over 1700 views in 48 hours, which is incredible considering we were competing against chemists from massive institutions like U Cal Berkeley, National Autonomous University of Mexico, and Université de Lille.” Carr explained. “Event organizers noted that LatinXChem features nearly 1000 projects from more than 40 countries. There were tons of competition.”

For one of the two projects, CACC Summer 2023 students Zalaya Haynes, Grady James, Landon Smith, and Nathan Speake researched a reaction called the “Wharton-type Grob Fragmentation.”

“There are certain molecules that basically fall apart just by pulling slightly on a bond. It’s like a game of molecular Jenga,” explained Carr. “The fragmentation reaction is used to synthesize anti-cancer compounds, but no one seemed to understand why the chemistry works. Our students came up with a great answer that we wanted to share with the world.”

CACC’s organic chemistry team learned how to study the reaction with advanced computer modeling techniques. In turn, the students uncovered some new aspects of the reaction that chemists had never previously known.

“It was a very rewarding opportunity to show people what our little class was able to discover over the summer,” said Landon Smith, CACC student and project researcher. “The frustration and anticipation were 110% worth it. I never in a million years would think I would get excited over a computed molecular stretch, but here we are.”

CACC’s winning entry was a chemical education project that described a newly developed lesson aimed to help students learn about bond formation.

CACC President Jeff Lynn expressed his excitement, “I am immensely proud of our students and faculty’s remarkable achievements in the LatinXChem research poster competition. Their dedication, creativity, and scientific understanding have brought honor to TV Alabama Community College and showcased the exceptional talent we nurture within our institution. This success is a testament to the collaborative spirit and innovative mindset that we foster at CACC, and it highlights the significant impact our students and faculty can make on the global stage. Congratulations to everyone involved for setting such a high excellence standard and representing our college with distinction.”

“(CACC alumnus) Zander McClendon helped collect all the preliminary data for the bonding project during the COVID pandemic,” Carr explained. “Then I asked Dr Carly Rock (University of Mississippi) to run additional calculations to verify our method. This project would have been dead in the water without Zander and Carly.”

Carr had his students test the lesson. Going into the assignment, students knew nearly nothing about attraction and repulsion in chemical bonding. But not only were they able to complete the lesson, but the students could also interpret the results and correctly answer questions about the data.

“Judges were impressed with how much students gained in the assignment. They also asked some great questions about our work,” Carr said. “They were curious about how much students knew about bonding before using our lesson. They also asked about our plans to extend the work in the future.”

CACC was awarded First Place in the Chemical Education discipline, a prize sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry (England). The award comes with a book voucher and plaque.

Both posters will soon be publicly on display in CACC’s Business and Sciences building on the Alexander City Campus.

“I really think that it’s amazing how far our research has come,” said McClendon, reflecting on CACC’s big win. “From when I got to work on it (alongside chemistry researchers) and how it continued to develop in the way that we hoped it would. It’s just been an incredible journey!”

President Lynn continued, “Alongside celebrating our students’ remarkable achievements, I want to thank Dr. Jeremy M. Carr for his exceptional guidance and mentorship. His dedication and expertise have been instrumental in fostering a culture of research and discovery at CACC. Dr. Carr’s commitment to our students and their academic pursuits has enriched their learning experience and significantly contributed to our Chemistry Department’s success. We are incredibly fortunate to have such a passionate and skilled educator on our team.”

Project Summary:
The first-place award I received (at LatinXChem) was for a project describing student learning gains after completing a brand-new laboratory experiment, I developed with Zander McClendon (CACC alum) and Dr Carly Rock (high school teacher from MS). In the experiment, CACC students use computer modeling to study chemical bond formation from a “force-based” perspective (i.e., attraction and repulsion). Summative assessment involved evaluating student plots, their estimated covalent bond length for their assigned molecule, and their error analysis – how well their estimated/computed results matched the actual, experimental value. Formative assessment involved comparing relevant pre- and post-semester multiple choice questions results. The assessment results indicated that students were able to do the following: (1) construct correctly shaped data plots; (2) obtain covalent bond lengths with less than 5% error; (3) recognize that bond formation between two atoms occurs when attractive forces are maximized, and repulsive forces are minimized.

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Media Contact:

Scott Hardy
Director of Institutional Advancement, Government Affairs, and Public Relations
TV Alabama Community College