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April 16, 2008

Soybean contest teaches entrepreneurship to student inventors

Student team that created the Eco Disc
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Two teams of Purdue University students captured top spots and cash prizes for innovative projects that produced healthier soy waffle bowls and environmentally friendly clay shooting pigeons for the Soybean Innovation Contest.

Teams EcoDisc and Scoops worked for months on their projects and both have earned top honors in the 2008 competition, which is sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance.

"The goal of this competition is really to allow students to take the knowledge they've gained in the classroom and apply it to understanding how new products are developed," said Bernie Tao, Indiana Soybean Alliance professor of soybean utilization at Purdue. "Many of the students who participate go on to start their own businesses or to be leaders in industry because they've gained the understanding and ability to practically apply what they've learned in the classroom."

This year's entries were scored on a rubric, allowing multiple teams to place in the top three categories. First-place teams earned $7,500 for team members to share, $8,000 for their adviser's department and $2,000 for the adviser.

Student team that created Scoops
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Under the direction of Purdue professor Osvaldo Campanella, John Mullen a senior in health science from Dayton, Ohio, management sophomore Adrian Boeh of Lebanon, Ind., and agricultural and biological engineering seniors David Conway of Highland Park, Ill. and Ben Hall of Merritt Island, Fla.; spent hours trying to come up with an original idea.

"It came to the point where we were just going through hobbies we had and seeing if we could apply them to soybeans," Conway said. "On a wild tangent I started thinking about the old game Duck Hunt, and we came up with the idea of soy shooting targets."

With that, team EcoDisc began working. After months of market research and product development, the team developed an original product. Because EcoDisc is formed using biodegradable soy products in place of the petroleum products currently used in clay pigeons, the discs are environmentally friendly.

"I don't think that the end goal of this competition was for us to win some set amount of money," Conway said. "It was more about the idea that four Purdue students from different backgrounds were going to come together and produce a product that will better the world we live in. At the end of the day, that is the whole idea of EcoDisc."

While the developers of EcoDisc were working on target practice, the members of team Scoops were taste-testing a healthier way to enjoy an edible ice cream dish.

Their waffle bowl, composed of soy products, was a "delicious fit" for a group of students who wanted to learn more about product innovation than what a textbook could teach, said team member Brian Hunter, a School of Management junior from Mill Creek, Ind.

Hunter and his teammates, Clay Arnett, a senior from Circle Pines, Minn., studying organizational leadership and supervision; and Todd Case, a food science senior from Fishers, Ind., worked with Purdue professor Stroh Brann, to conceptualize the product and set up a business plan to keep it successful beyond the competition.

"I have experience in formulating ice cream cone mixes, so we chose this particular product based on a lack of availability of soy-based ice cream cones in the marketplace," said Case, who in addition to being a student has worked in upper-level food company management for the last 12 years.

In addition to EcoDisc and Scoops, other finalist projects include an all-natural after-sun lotion, a soy-based coal replacement option for coal-powered stoves and a soy-based liquor.

The Indiana Soybean Alliance sponsors the Soybean Innovation Contest through funds earned from the Indiana Soybean Checkoff program. The competition is open to Purdue students of all majors.

"The quality of the students' work is astounding," said Chris Novak, Indiana Soybean Alliance executive director. "Since the soybean checkoff began in 1990, we've seen tremendous growth in soybean production nationwide. New soybean uses, such as those developed by Purdue students, play a vital role in building soy demand that pays a return on each Indiana farmer's checkoff investment."

Successful products from past contests have included soybean crayons, candles, lip balm, ski wax, dessert toping and a soy-based gelatin.

Writer: Jennifer Cummins, (765) 494-6682,

Sources: Bernie Tao, (765) 494-1183,

Chris Novak, (317) 347-3620,

Jennifer Nordland, (765) 496-8326, (765) 463-3880,

Adrian Boeh, (765) 894-2552,

David Conway, (847) 769-6641,

Ben Hall, (786) 271-1698,

John Mullen, (737) 238-4666,

Clay Arnett, (763) 226-5916,

Brian Hunter, (219) 369-7888,

Todd Case, (317) 250-8085,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes,
Agriculture News Page

The student team that created the Eco Disc, a soy clay pigeon, was one of two teams that took top honors in the Indiana Soybean Alliance's 2008 Student Soybean Product Innovation Competition at Purdue University. Team members, from left, include Adrian Boeh, a sophomore in management; Ben Hall, a senior in agricultural and biological engineering; John Mullen, a senior in health science; and David Conway, a senior in agricultural and biological engineering. The team earned $7,500 for its efforts. (Photo by Jamie Nance)

A publication-quality photo is available at

The student team that created Scoops, a soy ice cream waffle bowl, was one of two teams that took top honors in the Indiana Soybean Alliance's 2008 Student Soybean Product Innovation Competition at Purdue University. Team members, from left, include Clay Arnett, a senior in organizational leadership; Brian Hunter, a junior in economics; and Todd Case, a senior in food science. The team earned $7,500 for its efforts. (Photo by Jamie Nance)

A publication-quality photo is available at

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