WEST LAFAYETTE │ Several Northwest Indiana high school students were among 50 juniors and seniors chosen from across the state to participate in a nationally-known entrepreneurship program at Purdue University.
The Purdue Research Park Entrepreneurship Academy is week-long program in which students in 10 teams of five members each test the viability of a business idea that already has been used to create a high-tech company. They identify capital needs and devise a management plan based on a methodology developed by Wendy Kennedy, a technology industry executive, professor and author.
“We’re helping them understand the steps they would have to go through to start these companies,” said Purdue Research Park Entrepreneurship Academy Director Tim Peoples.
The event concludes Friday with a business plan competition during which teams present capital needs and management plans to a panel of judges. Members of the top three winning teams will receive tuition vouchers that are accepted at all Purdue University campuses. Officials at Purdue University's Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation program will waive one course requirement for all participants who complete the academy.
Huldah Ohiani-Jegede, a junior at Merrillville High School, is part of a team that worked on new technology to maximize how much energy a wind turbine can produce.
“I really like the people here,” she said. “They’re excited to learn. It’s interesting learning about the business and how to market and how to pitch and sell your idea and how to be the best in the business. I was really happy I got in.”
Crown Point High School junior Simone Siew is on a team of students tasked with a green energy product involving an enzyme that could convert any biomass into ethanol.
“It’s been real eye-opening,” she said. “We’ve learned so much about a lot of marketing techniques and how to talk to people and what we need to do in order to make a start-up company. It’s really interesting.”
Josh Shalen, a senior at Munster High School, is in the team developing predicative crime analytic software.
“It’s complex,” he said. “I really welcome the challenge because I came looking for a unique opportunity and I’ve definitely found it.”
Other Northwest Indiana students taking part in the academy include Addison Dempsay, Chesterton High School; Taryn Trusty, Chesterton High School; Alexandra Magallon, Highland High School; Brandon Hamill, Valparaiso High School; and Mikaela Meyer, Chesterton High School.