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Winners named in Innovation Challenge '15

A drone system with improved flight characteristics, a website that helps people stay connected to their communities, and a mechanical way to reduce weed pressure won their categories in North Dakota State University’s annual student innovation competition.

Innovation Challenge ’15, sponsored by NDSU and the NDSU Research and Technology Park, showcases and encourages student innovation.

“A good idea is the precursor to starting a business, and students have tremendous ideas,” said Chuck Hoge, interim executive director of the NDSU Research and Technology Park. “Innovation Challenge is a way for students to develop their ideas into well thought-out concepts and to build skills and confidence. It also helps diversify our economy and develop leaders.”

The competition began in fall 2014, with 32 teams. Teams went through two rounds of judging to make it to the finals. The 23 finalists went through a third round of judging, which involved a 10-minute oral presentation that was open to the public.

The competition included three categories: products, services and corn-based innovations. Winners were announced at an awards ceremony on Feb. 26.

Product category winners

First place, $5,000: Team SkyHawk. Their innovation is a multi-axial rotor actuation drone system that has improved flight characteristics, such as more speed, less drag, greater range and better maneuverability.

Team members:

  • Alexander Sinclair, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering from Morris, Minnesota
  • Scott Wheeler, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering from Burnsville, Minnesota
  • Aaron Perry, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering from Roseville, Minnesota
  • Jake Patton, a senior majoring in electrical engineering from Marble, Minnesota
  • Wyatt Dick, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering from Munich, North Dakota

Their adviser is Robert Pieri, professor of mechanical engineering.

Second place, $1,000: Team Clothes Hanger Reinvented. The team’s innovation is a redesigned clothes hanger that uses a system of geometric forms. The forms can be taken apart and put together into different configurations to accommodate different types and sizes of clothing as well as accessories, such as shoes, belts and scarves.

Team members:

  • Amber Grindeland, a graduate student in architecture from Hatton, North Dakota
  • Caet Fox, a graduate student in architecture from Edgeley, North Dakota

Their adviser is Cindy Urness, program director for architecture.

Third place, $500: Team ToxoSafe. Their innovation is a smart anti-cancer drug carrier that targets tumors and protects healthy tissue from toxicity.

Team members:

  • Prajakta Kulkarni, a graduate student in pharmaceutical sciences from Pune, India
  • Gaurav Patwardhan, a graduate student in business from Pune, India

Their adviser is Sanku Mallik, professor of pharmaceutical sciences.

Service category winners

First place, $5,000: Team Townnected. The team’s innovation is a website, www.townnected.com, that allows people to post and view news about their town as well as news from other towns they care about.

Team members:

  • Wyatt Mund, a freshman majoring in marketing from Milnor, North Dakota
  • Landon Mund, a sophomore majoring in agricultural economics from Milnor, North Dakota
  • Andrew Martinson, a freshman majoring in agricultural economics from Milnor, North Dakota

Their adviser is Joan Krush, lecturer in computer science.

Second place, $1,000: Team Fruition. The innovation is a mobile app that encourages people to be grateful, to capture gratitude as they experience it and to reflect on it later. The goal is improved quality of life, focus and overall happiness.

Team member:

  • Jan Piskacek, a master of business administration student from the Czech Republic

The adviser is Sukumarakurup Krishnakumar, assistant professor of management and marketing.

Third place, $500: Team App EZ. The innovation is a mobile app that allows users to focus on deep breathing exercises.

Team member:

  • Abdelrahman Magid, a senior majoring in university studies from Oakland, California

His adviser is Carolyn Schnell, associate dean of university studies.

Corn-innovation category winners

First place, $5,000: Team A Displaced Farmer. The innovation is a modified rotary hammer mill to be mounted in the rear of a combine. The mill pulverizes weed seed to reduce weed pressure and volunteer crop regrowth the following year. After passing through the mill, the chaff and pulverized seed pass to the chaff spreaders and are put back into the field. This results in benefits for farmers, including improved soil quality, reduced need for herbicides and reduced input costs.

Team member:

  • Paul Subart, a junior majoring in crop and weed science from Robinson, North Dakota

His adviser is Marisol Berti, associate professor of plant science.

Second place, $1,000: Team Tea Time. The innovation is an alternative to commercial pesticides that uses green tea.

Team member:

  • Dre Steinwehr, a sophomore majoring in microbiology from Hankinson, North Dakota

His adviser is Janice Haggart, instructor in veterinary and biological sciences.

Third place, $500: Team Color with Corn. Their innovation uses a corn byproduct as an alternative, low-cost way to color and add nutrients to butter.

Team members:

  • Joseph Kallenback, a graduate student in cereal science from Dickinson, North Dakota
  • Cassandra Hillen, a graduate student in cereal science from Fargo, North Dakota

Their adviser is Clifford Hall, associate professor of food science.

People’s Choice Award winner, $1,000: Team Liu Group. Their innovation is a home early detection test for breast cancer.

Team members:

  • Sunitha Takalkar, a graduate student in analytical chemistry from Hyderabad, India
  • Kwaku Baryeh, a graduate student in analytical chemistry from Jamasi, Ghana

Their adviser is Guodong Liu, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

The purpose of Innovation Challenge is 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

The NDSU Research and Technology Park and Technology Incubator are home to fast-paced, high-growth companies that promote technology-based economic development in North Dakota. The companies compete globally or have the potential to. To operate within the park or Technology Incubator, a company needs to be involved in the advancement and development of new technology and be willing to establish a working relationship with NDSU. The companies work in the fields of material sciences, biosciences and life science technology, information technology, nanotechnology, and advanced manufacturing and sensors/micro-electronics.

As a student-focused, land-grant, research university, we serve our citizens.


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Vice President for University Relations
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-1068 - Fax: (701) 231-1989
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