Agriculture News

July 14, 2016

Indiana teens learn business skills at Entrepreneurship Academy

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - More than 25 high school students from across Indiana had a chance to learn practical entrepreneurship skills from industry professionals during the Purdue Entrepreneurship Academy last month.

The academy, sponsored by Purdue Extension and Indiana 4-H Youth Development, is an annual weeklong event that gives high school students the opportunity to interact with business leaders and entrepreneurship experts from Purdue University and throughout the state. In addition to classroom instruction, one-on-one mentorship and networking, students form teams to create competitive business plans that they present to a panel of judges at the conclusion of the event.

This year's winning team - Thomas Brackett of Benton Central Junior/Senior High School, Darcie Patton of Mississinewa High School, Mackenzie Lewis of Highland High School and Jack Moulton of Lafayette Jefferson High School - presented a plan for a product called TopCrop, which would not only trap and kill crop pests, but also identify and log their species to aid pest management planning. The product is based on technology currently under development in the Purdue Research Park. The teens each won $500 in Purdue tuition vouchers.

Caleb Schlundt of Benton Central Junior/Senior High School, Vinh Lee of Kokomo High School, Luke Sanders of Valparaiso High School, Jessica Radwick of Lawrence North High School and Angela Lee of Leo Junior/Senior High School won the second place prize of $250 for their product Armordillo, a lightweight armor plating for military vehicles.

Madison Burgett of Benton Central Junior/Senior High School, Robert Hastidt of Mississinewa High School, David Paris of Valparaiso High School, Kirsten Mehling of Castle High School and Ivelisse Taylor of Merrillville High School placed third and won $100 each. Their submission, called AlgaeUp, consisted of plans to harvest omega-3 fatty acids from algae instead of fish.

"The youth who were nominated and selected to participate in the academy are receiving real-world content that has not been watered down," said Ryan Wynkoop, a 4-H special projects coordinator and coordinator of the academy. "The training is the same as what a Purdue professor or staff member would participate in if he or she wanted to commercialize an invention."

In addition to the team awards, the David E. Ross Award for Entrepreneurial Distinction was awarded to incoming junior Chris Holland of Rushville Consolidated High School. Holland was nominated by his fellow students to receive the award, which consists of an additional $500 tuition voucher.

The Ross Award is given to a student who demonstrates creativity, leadership, communication, a balanced life, hard work and persistence. The award is named for inventor and Purdue Research Foundation co-founder David Ross.

Academy sessions and activities teach "hard" skills such as creating a business model, planning a business pitch and identifying target customer bases, said Wynkoop, as well as "soft skills" such as professional communication, building teams and confidently delivering presentations.

For more information about the academy, contact Wynkoop at 765-494-8435,           

Writer: Jessica Merzdorf, 765-494-7719, 

Source: Ryan Wynkoop, 765-494-8435,

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson,
Agriculture News Page

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