Steinwehr Places in Innovation Challenge

NDSU Microbiology
by NDSU Microbiology

Dre Steinwehr, a VMS sophomore from Hankinson, ND, placed second in the 2014-2015 Innovation Challenge. The Challenge is sponsored by the NDSU Research and Technology Park and is designed to:

  • encourage students to be innovative thinkers
  • enhance student awareness for innovation as a precursor to entrepreneurship
  • empower students to pursue entrepreneurship as a career choice
  • expand student access to resources available for innovators and entrepreneurs
  • engage the current entrepreneur and business communities with students

This year’s competition included three categories: products, services, and corn-based innovations. Dre won second place and $1000 for his corn-based innovation, a green-tea alternative to commercial pesticides.

Here’s a Q & A with Dre:

What/who inspired you to participate in this year’s Challenge?

A good friend of mine. We had competed in high school science fairs, so he figured I would be interested in the Innovation Challenge. I had never heard of it and became very interested after
checking it out!

What inspired your project?

I looked into potential natural alternatives to chemical pesticides that are used in today's corn-farming industry. I looked into green tea poly phenols, specifically. I wanted to see if they reduced the amount of fungal contamination (mycotoxins) on the corn and also to see if they had insecticidal properties. I also looked into what effects the differently treated corns had on ethanol production. Through this research, I found that green tea compounds worked as well, if not better, than the chemical pesticides used in today's farming practices. They also had a positive impact on ethanol production, compared to the other treatments.

How does it feel to place so high in the contest? (NOTE: The competition began this fall with 32 teams; after two rounds of judging, the finalists were required to give a 10-minute oral presentation, which was open to the public.)

The feeling was a rush! In the beginning, I had no idea what to expect with the competition, so I did not expect to do well. Through the competition, they provided many resources to make the presentation what it was in the end. It was a great feeling to realize that I was rewarded for all the work the project was.

What's the next step in this project?

I may plan to do further field testing to validate the results of my findings over multiple field locations and years. I would also like to push the testing in the insecticidal and fungicidal applications.

Dre is advised by Janice Haggart. He is a microbiology major with a chemistry and biochemistry double minor and plans to apply to medical school and specialize in cardiology or neonatology.