WarriorsINNOVATE Challenge kicks off


Shannon Galliart

Students discuss future career options with a businessman during the WarriorsINNOVATE Challenge event on Thursday, Sept. 28 in East Hall. Professionals from companies such as WinCraft and Fastenal serve as judges for this year’s competition.

Wesley Holm, Features Reporter

As part of the university theme of Creativity and Innovation, hosted by the Winona State University Foundation, the WarriorsINNOVATE Challenge has officially kicked off its second year.

The WarriorsINNOVATE Challenge began at an event in Kryzsko Commons East Hall on Thursday, Sept. 28.

Students are given opportunities to submit “ideas of change” to a panel of judges, according to Jennifer Hoffman, who coordinates the WarriorsINNOVATE challenge.

“Students have great ideas,” Hoffman said. “This is a chance for students to truly share these ideas and get help making them real.”

The challenge, funded by a donor within the foundation, has already made ripples in the culture of Winona State in its year of being around.

“It’s connected students in Winona, and making them feel like entrepreneurship isn’t an unreachable thing,” says Hoffman.

Hoffman said the student entrants are often in cross-disciplined teams.

“You’ll have maybe a chemistry major, a marketing major, a psychology major, really just across different disciplines,” Hoffman said.

The panel of judges will choose some of the teams’ ideas and throughout the next four months, a “boot camp” will take place to further form each individual idea. Each idea will then be submitted to another panel of judges for the chance to be funded up to $10,000 to produce the idea.

The event gave students the opportunity to speak to company representatives about their ideas while they continue brainstorming.

The companies on display covered a spectrum of ideas and principles, from banks to copper metals to disk-writing. Students had the opportunity to hear from every perspective about their ideas.

Kori Iverson, a representative from Elder Network, said this casual, but get-to-work, atmosphere has created an excitement among students and companies alike.

“It’s a great idea,” Iverson said. “Students are so intelligent and they have great ideas.”

WinCraft CEO John Killen said he was “as eager to work with students as the students are to work with me.”

As a product of the challenge, a prerequisite-free entrepreneurship course is in the works meaning students from all disciplines, majors and interests can learn more about what it means to own a company.

“It helps students to reach their full potential while they are here in Winona,” Hoffman said. “An employer will look at the creativity of a potential employee before they will look at a degree. This gives them the opportunity.”