Students participate in I-69 innovation challenge

MARION, IN—Five Huntington University students, Eric Randel, Chris Hoffman, Melissa Shepard, Patrick Harding and Ross Blakely, participated in the second annual I-69 Collegiate Innovation Challenge this past weekend at Swan Lake Resort in Plymouth, Ind. They joined students from Anderson University, Ball State University, Indiana Wesleyan University and Taylor University.

The students were given a social problem dealing with healthcare and were expected to work in teams to create a for-profit business solution to the problem. The teams consisted of one student from each of the represented universities. Students were placed in teams Friday night after taking a problem-solving assessment.

Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman, a senior entrepreneurial/small business major from Fort Wayne, Ind., was the Huntington student on the winning team, FlexMed. His team created a company that used the Internet and kiosks to provide video conferences between patients and doctors. Each member of the winning team received a gold coin valued at $500.

“I had originally been worried about working with a group of people that I didn't know, but it turned out that my team really hit it off quickly,” Hoffman said. “Not only were we able to come up with a concept, though not until 3:30 a.m., but we had a really good time in the process.”

Melissa Shepard
Huntington students Melissa Shepard and Eric Randel were on the second and third place teams and received gift cards valued at $100 and $50, respectively. Shepard is a senior entrepreneurial/small business major from Brooklyn, Mich., and Randel is a junior business management major from Frankfort, Ind.

On Saturday, students presented their solutions to a panel of keynote judges from Raymond James Financial Group, KPMG, Marion General Hospital, the Grant County Affordable Housing Corporation, the Entrepreneurship Center at Ball State University, Bingham-McHale Attorneys at Law, and the Flagship Enterprise Center. The judges selected a winner based on criteria that considered innovation, profitability, and market potential.

Eric Randel
The purpose of this competition is to encourage entrepreneurship along the I-69 corridor, foster collaborative market solutions through team building, promote cross-pollination, and generate creative ideas.

“The Challenge is a fantastic next step in fostering entrepreneurial collaboration among the public and private institutions in the I-69 corridor,” said Mick Bates, the director of the Innovative Enterprises Program at Taylor’s Center for Research and Innovation. “It is my hope this event stimulates our undergraduate students to consider new venture possibilities right here in East Central Indiana.”

The first I-69 Collegiate Innovation Challenge was held in November of 2006. This year, the competition expanded to include Huntington University.

Each university, Duke Energy, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Indiana Michigan Power, Bingham-McHale, Attorney at Law, Indiana Municipal Power Agency, KPMG, the Grant County Economic Growth Council, and the Innovative Network were the key event sponsors.

The Grant County Economic Growth Council has a sole mission of facilitating business investment and reinvestment for job retention and creation in Grant County, Indiana. The Growth Council sees entrepreneurship, especially on the college level, as a key part of their mission.

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Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S.News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington University is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in northeast Indiana. The University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).  


Heather Barkley
Director of Communications
Joanne Green
Sports Information Director