As part of its effort to highlight its 2012-13 class, the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana has selected its May Innovators of the Month.
The honorees are Al Walus, Robotics Team No. 3936 in Michigan City; Raymundo A. Garcia, El Taco Real Restaurant, Hammond; and Marc Chase, of the Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project and South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail
With an eye on preparing the region’s next generation workforce, Al Walus is lead mentor for the Michigan City Robotics Team No. 3936.
A former member of the Michigan City Economic Development Corp., Al is senior project manager for Christopher B. Burke Engineering LLC in Crown Point. He was asked to help launch a new robotics team by Herb Higgin, who coordinates the Safe Harbor afterschool program.
He recruited 14 companies, and today, this robotics team has had success. In its second year, the team won the Regional Finalist award for its Firehawk Robot at the FIRST Robotics Midwest Regional Competition at UIC in Chicago.
Raymundo A. Garcia, of El Taco Real Restaurant, is known as an early “urban pioneer” from the private sector investing in contemporary downtown Hammond.
He has rehabilitated several buildings downtown, including a three-story building that he is turning into a restaurant next to the Towle Theater. He even got his general contractor’s license. But this isn’t the first time he has demonstrated his tenacity for personal urban renewal.
Once, he faced problems with young men in his neighborhood who were tagging homes to mark their territory. So he carried a paint brush and paint cans in his car. He simply painted over the “tagged” garages and homes. Additionally, he has owned and rehabilitated other homes, and on occasion, employees have lived in them.
Walking the rows of pioneer cemeteries and seeing Civil War headstones falling into dust, Times Investigative Editor Marc Chase launched a rebirth in interest of preserving the graves and celebrating the stories of regional sacrifice during America’s bloodiest war.
Chase’s efforts have re-ignited new appreciation for the contributions of region men who fought to preserve the nation. He founded the Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project, and a tourism digital platform called the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail. The stories and artifacts gathered from the project are on display through June at SSCVA’s exhibit called “Region United, Nation Divided” at the Indiana Welcome Center.
The society is part of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center of Ivy Tech Community College Northwest.
For more information, call O'Merrial Butchee, director of the Lamkin Center at (219) 981-4942, or John Davies, assistant director, at (219) 981-1111, ext. 2292.