Innovation Challenge recognizes top high school projects

February 28, 2023

Kits to assist with STEM education and a podcast to alleviate the stigma of mental health issues won the top prizes in the high school division of Trine University’s annual Innovation Challenge competition.

Held Feb. 16 on the Trine campus and presented by Trine innovation 1 and Farmers State Bank, this year’s contest included projects by 41 students.

Connor Wueller and Nash Brown from DeKalb High School took the top technology prize with Intellekits, hands-on kits they developed to provide a different approach to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education.

Zien Smith, Chase Chmielews and Vinida Chuengviroj from Career Academy South Bend were named runners-up in the technology division for Instaheat, an electricity-free, quick access heated blanket for use in emergencies.

In the business division, Carly Rasbaugh from Lakeland High School took first prize for “No Rain, No Flowers,” a podcast that addresses the stigma associated with mental health issues, particularly in teens.

The runner-up in that category was “Bow Wow Boutique” by Lexi Long, Emma Huth and Phoebe Sullivan of DeKalb High School. That business concept uses recycled materials to make bandanas for pets.

Event judges were Deb Richard, chair of Trine’s Ketner School of Business; Joshua Wenning, Ph.D., executive director, Region 8 Educational Service Center; David Corcoran, adjunct professor at Trine and regional entrepreneur; Mark Cowen, executive vice president and chief business development officer at Farmers State Bank; Lorne Groe, advisor for Keebo; Andie Hines-Langemann, regional director of entrepreneurship, Elevate Northeast Indiana; and Steve Franks, Entrepreneurship Program Manager, Believe in a Dream.

Trine University’s Innovation Challenge provides cash prizes to top business and technology ideas, with awards funded by a gift from Farmers State Bank. Top prize for the high school Innovation Challenge was $1,000 in each category. Runners-up received $500.

Entries will be accepted through March 16 for the college and community event, with finalists presenting their projects to judges on March 30.

About Farmers State Bank  

Founded in 1915 in Stroh, Indiana, Farmers State Bank is one of northeast Indiana’s leading financial institutions and the Home of Blue Button Banking. With corporate headquarters in LaGrange, Indiana, Farmers State Bank has been providing banking and financial services to both consumers and businesses for over 100 years. To learn more, visit

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