Red Rocks Institute for Sustainability in Education (RISE)

Our History

The college launched Red Rocks Institute for Sustainability in Education (RISE) in 2010 to reimagine community college education with support from the Community First Foundation Leach Family Donor-Advised fund. RISE supported several initiatives in innovation, design, engineering and cross-institutional collaboration, resulting in new engineering transfer courses, and the creation of the IDEA Lab in 2014.

The IDEA Lab plays a critical role in student innovation by serving as a sandbox for student experimentation in self-directed learning and 21st century education. The IDEA Lab demonstrated its value early on by supporting a student team who won first place in the National Science Foundation’s Community College Innovation Challenge.

When the founding grant for RISE ended, Red Rocks chose to provide ongoing support to interdisciplinary, project-based learning based on the successes generated out of the IDEA Lab.

RISE re-branded to IDEA Institute to prepare diverse students for the rapidly changing world of work.

Follow our work:

The IDEA Lab is located on the west end of campus, across from Student Life Desk.

IDEA Scholars – programming to support engineering students develop problem-solving mindsets, skills and knowledge through co-curricular experiences (website coming soon)

High School Innovation Challenge – IDEA and Engineering at Red Rocks Community College support high school teams to become changemakers through project-based learning around designs related to food, water, energy and environment (website coming soon)

Outreach – IDEA partners with K-12, universities, community organizations and governments to create a diverse workforce for innovation and entrepreneurship. Contact IDEA Director Liz Cox at to discuss outreach opportunities.


August 2010 – Red Rocks Community College launched RISE: Red Rocks Institute for Sustainability in Education to transform education so that community college students will develop the mindsets, skills, and sense of purpose needed to thrive in a rapidly changing world. RISE was funded by Community First Foundation through the Leach Family Donor-Advised Fund from 2010-2013

2010-2012 – RISE Fellows from across RRCC, Mines and Jeffco piloted initiatives in sustainability, engineering design and 21st century learning

2012 – RISE was awarded Outstanding Program by Colorado Community College System

2013 – RISE launched a new course in project-based learning and engineering design. This course would become IDEA (Introduction to Design and Engineering Applications) and accepted as transfer to Colorado School of Mines

2014 – RISE focuses on innovations in STEM Education, awarded $500k from NSF to engage and retain low-income/first generation community college students in STEM through projects that matter

2014 – RISE opened the IDEA Lab as a physical space for STEM students to collaborate on projects, resulting in a makerspace for RRCC

2015 – RISE and the IDEA Lab supported a student team who won first place in the National Science Foundation Community College Innovation Challenge (as well as top 10 teams 2016-2018)

2016 – RISE’s IDEA Lab is awarded Outstanding program by Colorado Community College System

2017- RISE is awarded a grant from the Colorado Community College System to Create Workforce for the Innovation Economy. RISE re-brands to IDEA (Innovation, Design, Engineering and Action) to create new programming to support diverse students to prepare for innovation and entrepreneurship.