WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Three teams of Purdue University students that created new uses for corn and soybeans — melt-away cupcake liners, biodegradable cork and toilet paper — took top honors March 23 in the Student Soybean and Corn Innovation Contests.
The competition, sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, focuses on teaching students how to become innovative entrepreneurs.
The awards were presented at an unveiling at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis.
“These contests are about more than just creating new products,” said Bernie Tao, Indiana Soybean Alliance Professor of Soybean Utilization at Purdue. “The future success of our country depends on our graduates’ abilities to innovate and market more sustainable products.
“That’s something that can be hard to teach in a classroom. These contests help the students take what they’ve learned in class and apply that knowledge to solve real-world issues.”
Purdue’s TerraMat and Melt-A-Way Cupcake Liners teams tied for top honors in the soybean portion of the competition, earning $17,500 each.
TerraMat, a cork product that can be made of both soybeans and corn, was created by Jacob Smoker, a junior double-majoring in agricultural economics, and horticulture production and marketing from Wanatah, Ind., and Mohamad Abiad, an agricultural and biological engineering doctoral student from Beirut, Lebanon.
Adviser Osvaldo Campanella, professor of agricultural and biological engineering assisted.
“We spent hours on the phone and in the lab, on conference calls and in meetings, trying to come up with an idea that would be new and innovative,” Smoker said.
“One day while we were brainstorming in the lab, Mohamad noticed a synthetic cork board and suggested we try a natural, biodegradable cork product. We researched it and found that there were no corn- or soybean-based cork products on the market.”
With that, TerraMat was in the works. The product can be used in corkboards or floor mats.
Melt-A-Way Cupcake Liners are designed to become part of the cupcake during the baking process. This eliminates the hassle of removing a paper liner and also reduces paper waste.
“Our team was thinking about creating waxed paper from soybeans or corn, but we decided we wanted a more novel product,” said Erin Rosswurm, a junior in biological and food process engineering from Columbus, Ind.
“I was thinking one night about how waxed paper could be improved and came up with the idea for a cupcake liner. Our entire team has cooking and food science experience, so the project used a combination of our interests and backgrounds.”
Rosswurm’s teammates were Victoria Horton, a senior from Rochester Hills, Mich., studying biological and food process engineering; Marci Colglazier of Mitchell, Ind., a senior studying food manufacturing operations, and Anna Verseman, a senior in biochemistry from St. Paul, Ind.
The group worked with Lisa Mauer, professor of food science, to conceptualize, create and market the product.
In the corn-only portion of the contest, members of team Nature’s Silk came up with a process for biodegradable toilet paper. The product earned a cash prize of $10,000.
“We were sold on the idea of Nature’s Silk from the beginning,” said Jessamine Osborne, a senior from Evansville, Ind., double-majoring in cell molecular development and genetics.
“The idea is simple, but perfect. We couldn’t figure out why this product wasn’t already on the market.”
Osborne’s teammates included Janie Stine, a junior in biological engineering from Indianapolis, David Jaroch, a doctoral student from Ubly, Mich., studying biomedical engineering, and adviser, Jenna Rickus, professor of agricultural and biological engineering.
This year’s competition drew a record 33 students on 12 teams — nine of which competed in both corn and soybean categories.
Other products in this year’s competition included a decomposable flowerpot, snow removal and de-icing solution, car wax, paint balls, disposable cups, biodegradable cigarette filters, hydroplaning solution, biodegradable shotgun cartridge casings and a biodegradable garden container.