April 24, 2002
Soy-based markers win student innovation contest
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Making a product used by many children safer and environmentally-friendlier won a team of Purdue University students the top prize in the 2002 Soybean Utilization Contest.
Soy Marx, colored markers that contain 25 percent soy-oil, were the creation of a team of students in the School of Agriculture. By replacing the petroleum-based oils used in most markers, the Soy Marx ink contains fewer volatile organic compounds and is biodegradable.
Members of the winning team are: Brian Costigan, Cincinnati, Ohio, junior; Melinda Durack, Fortville, Ind., senior; Amanda Stewart, Winslow, Ind., senior; and Rylie Vance, Monroe, Wash., junior. All four students are majoring in food process engineering and biochemistry. Osvaldo Campanella, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering and food science, advised the group.
The team members received $4,800 to split among them. The second place team, which created soy-based Popsicle sticks, received $2,400. The contest is sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Board and Purdue.
Other advantages of the Soy Marx over regular markers are increased brightness, consistency and faster drying time, according to team members. They also calculated that the soy-based markers would be cheaper to produce.
Durack said the team decided to create the markers for their broad-based appeal. "We wanted to make something for kids that would appeal to teachers, parents and children," she said. "The markers are also more natural and a fun product."
One of the most difficult steps in making the markers was keeping the ink components from separating. The team experimented, coming up with a two-step emulsification process that decreased the separation of oil and water in the ink.
While the team members were also friends, they found working together on a project to be a challenge.
"Keeping everyone on the same page in an involved experiment like this one quickly became more of an issue than the actual laboratory work," said Costigan. "I cannot begin to express what this competition has taught me in terms of team interaction in the workplace, except perhaps to say that I've developed a much stronger respect for those in leadership positions."
"Jack's Beansticks," edible Popsicle sticks, were created by Erika Quebe, Indianapolis, a senior majoring in food process engineering; and Rob Schlipf, Milford, Ind., a senior majoring in agricultural engineering. Hartono Sumali, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering, was the advisor.
The idea for the sticks came from efforts to create a medium-strength wood substitute. The edibility of the product was an added bonus.
"We experimented with a variety of flavors and peppermint was our favorite," said Quebe.
When the two told employees at a local Dairy Queen about the sticks, the response was very favorable. "They were totally excited," she said. "They made Dilly Bars for us with our sticks."
Jon Whiteman, research programs manager for the Indiana Soybean Board, says the products created by the contest are great, but another major benefit are the students who participate.
"These are some of the brightest and top people. Most didn't know about soybeans before entering this contest," he said. "They now have a better appreciation for the versatility of soybeans and will be innovators and creators in their careers."
Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-2722; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Belinda Puetz, Indiana Soybean Board, (800) 735-0195; email@example.com
Osvaldo Campanella, (765) 496-6330; firstname.lastname@example.org
Hartono Sumali, (765) 494-1197; email@example.com
Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/