By Katelyn S. Irons
25 students, 24 hours, 5 teams competing for the prize. The Grant County Economic Growth Council is hosting its 7th annual I-69 Collegiate Innovation Challenge today through Sunday at the Wyndham Hotel in Warsaw, Ind. "(The challenge) is designed to encourage entrepreneurship among students along the I-69 corridor, provide networking opportunities, generate creative ideas, and allow for collaboration between universities," according The Economic Growth Council. Taylor students involved in the event ar Suzanne Neefus, Chris Lesner, Liz DeOtte, Mike DeJong, and Josh Fankhauser. Teams will be created based on a problem-solving assessment called the Basadur Creative Profile. These teams will be made of five students from each of the five universities along I-69, including Anderson, Ball State, Huntington, Indiana Wesleyan and Taylor. The teams will then be given a problem based on a current economic or domestic dilemma happening in Indiana. They will be given less than 24 hours to create a business solution which will solve the crisis, but also make money. The teams are then judged on "innovation, profitability, and market potential," according to The Growth Council.
"The I-69 Challenge was unlike anything I'd ever been to before." said Joshua Key, a senior Communications major and winner of last year's challenge. "My team worked through the night, like the other teams, to have a great idea and presentation ready to go the next morning." Senior Suzanne Neefus is uncertain of how to prepare, but is excited about the event. "As a philosophy major, I am looking forward to dabbling in the world of business. I am hoping that I can successfully apply the analytical skills my major has developed to more practical, tangible issues." Neefus said. This event was created to force people to work together as a group and said Erin Wheeler, the event coordinator for the Grant County Economic Council. "Our panel of judges are very experienced in various entrepreneurship and small business roles." said Wheeler. Their numbers include a start-up venture capitalist, upper management in several companies including the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, insight2 and Vistage. Members of the winning team are each awarded a prize valued around $500; second place team members are awarded a prize valued around $100; and third place team members are awarded a prize valued around $50. "As a student and as a soon-to-be graduate in the working world, I think the challenge was incredibly useful." said Key.