10 NWI student teams to compete in Innovate WithIN • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine
STARTedUP Foundation’s Innovate WithIN

10 NWI student teams to compete in Innovate WithIN

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Ten teams from the Northwest Indiana region of the STARTedUP Foundation’s Innovate WithIN high school pitch competition will compete for one of 10 slots in the state finals.

A record-breaking 3,000 students applied for this year's competition, with a 28% increase in the number of teams signed up.

“While we have seen a growth in the number of pitches submitted, we have also seen a huge increase in the quality and thoughtfulness that each student team put forth when developing their business idea,” said Don Wettrick, co-founder and CEO of the STARTedUP Foundation, in a press release. “It has been amazing for our team to witness the mindset shift in students across the state as they learn to view problems as opportunities.”

The foundation expanded its STARTedUP Innovation Educator Fellowship, which engaged 35 educators throughout the state. Twenty-eight members of the 2023-2024 cohort have teams competing in regional competitions.

Teachers who are fellows from Northwest Indiana include Dawn Combis, Lake Central High School; Debera Hinchy, Lowell Senior High School; Krissy LaFlech, Munster High School; Brian Niksch, Valparaiso High School; and Daniel Schultz, Hobart High School.

Purdue University Northwest and The Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest will host the Region 4 teams on April 19 at Purdue University Northwest’s Alumni Hall in Hammond. The 10 regional teams are among 61 competing for a chance at the state finals June 21.

“One of the strategic goals of Purdue University Northwest is to foster innovation,” said Jason Williams, managing director for the Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest. “… The students participating in Innovate WithIN are developing real solutions for real problems. We know that by investing in these young innovators, we’re giving them an opportunity to not only apply what they’re working on in the classroom, but also to apply this to real problems that exist in our communities today.”

Here are the Region 4 teams

Cubbi Buddy

  • Noah Magiera, Valparaiso High School
  • Michael Opperman, Valparaiso High School
  • Tyler VerSchure, Valparaiso High School

Drone Launch Pad

  • Ryan Wiktor, Valparaiso High School


  • Abigail Bisig, Hobart High School
  • Trinity Peldonia-Lies, Crown Point High School

Escape the Silence

  • Lauren Dumaresq, Munster High School
  • Charity Ibikunle, Munster High School

Hero Cycle

  • Amauria Buck, Hammond High School
  • Akeelah Williams, Hammond High School

Hoodie Haven

  • Lily Decker, Lake Central High School
  • Mia Hulverson, Lake Central High School
  • Emma Slavena, Lake Central High School

Johnson Sports Memorabilia

  • Joseph Johnson, Lowell Senior High School


  • Ashton Verbish, Hanover Central High School

Scent Seal

  • Josephine Pirok, Munster High School
  • Nabeel Rabie, Munster High School
  • Brooke Weatherly, Munster High School


  • Connor Gomez, Munster High School
  • Ameen Musleh, Munster High School
  • Vasili Papageorge, Munster High School

Register for the regional competition here.

Caption: Ten teams from the Northwest Indiana region of the STARTedUP Foundation’s Innovate WithIN high school pitch competition will vie for a slot at the state finals. (Provided by the The STARTedUP Foundation)


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