HU students take home honors at 9th annual I-69 Collegiate Innovation Challenge

Five Huntington University students participated in the ninth annual I-69 Collegiate Innovation Challenge on Feb. 19-21, hosted by the Grant County Economic Growth Council. Seniors Tyson Kalischuk and Brice Urschel, juniors Kyle Burkholder and Kevin Fodrey and Sophomore Erin Van Kampen participated in the event, accompanied by Brock Zehr, assistant professor of business.

Each year, teams of students from colleges and universities along the I-69 corridor come together to create for-profit business plans to solve a social problem. This year the students tackled lack of education. The participating schools were Huntington University, Grace College, Indiana Wesleyan University and Taylor University.

The first place team developed a plan that integrated trade school training and small businesses into one for-profit entity, “Gateway Holdings.” Fodrey was a part of this winning team, and each team member was awarded a $500 gift card.

“The challenge was extremely beneficial as it stretched and tested me in a whole new way in my business innovation and creativity,” Fodrey said. “I also was very lucky to be a part of such a great team. We worked very hard and clicked well together, everyone bouncing ideas off of one another until we came up with a solid plan or strategy for each issue presented. Even if I wouldn’t have won, I would have been able to leave knowing that I did something I had never done before, something that I never would have imagined I could put together in such a short time period.”

Van Kampen was a member of the second place team in which members each won $250 gift cards for their proposal of “T.L.D.” which stands for “Teach it, Learn it, Do it,” an educational app that helps students stay engaged in their school work.

The third place team members were awarded $100 gift cards for their idea, “Socius,” a recruitment company that matches college students with companies for scholarships, internships, and post-graduate jobs. Urschel was a part of the third place team.

“This was the first year I participated in the I-69 Innovation Challenge as a faculty sponsor,” Zehr said. “The event exceeded my expectations, and I was proud of the creativity, effort and sacrifices our students made to develop viable business ideas addressing a social issue in a short time span. It was wonderful to witness the collaboration and community, which developed among the participants from different universities. I hope this event continues for many years.”

Five teams competed in the challenge with each team comprised of a student representative from the participating universities. The students were placed into teams Friday afternoon based on the Basadur Creative Profile, a problem-solving assessment, and collaborated for less than 24-hours on their business plans. The five teams then presented their solutions to a panel of four judges who selected the winners based on criteria that included innovation, profitability, and market potential.

The purpose of the I-69 Collegiate Innovation Challenge is to encourage entrepreneurship among students along the I-69 corridor, provide networking opportunities for students and judges, generate creative ideas and allow for collaboration between universities. The Grant County Economic Growth Council’s event was sponsored by the participating universities, Duke Energy, Indiana Michigan Power, Indiana Municipal Power Agency, Vectren and Wal-Mart.