Wednesday night in the Purdue Memorial Union, 12 teams competed for a $20,000 grand prize in the Indiana Soybean Alliance annual Student Soybean Innovation Competition. To win, Purdue students had to develop novel applications for soybeans that satisfy a market need.
Items such as a soy-based glue stick, a replacement for gypsum-based drywall, sunscreen, and water resistant mascara were some of the creations on display. Team StyroSoy emerged as winners of the $20,000 prize for their environmentally friendly, plastic-free alternative to Styrofoam.
“Our product is the very first truly compostable, biodegradable nontoxic replacement for Styrofoam,” says Alyssa Choi, a sophomore studying biological engineering from Addison, Ill. Other members of her team include Louis Edwards Caceres-Martinez, of Bogota, Colombia, a PhD student at the School of Engineering Technology at Purdue University; Valeria Tellez Gallego, a PhD student studying industrial and physical pharmacy from Bogota, Colombia; and Amy Tang, a Purdue sophomore from Sao Paulo, Brazil, studying biological engineering and pharmaceutical sciences.
“I say very first because I want to emphasize that when we did patent research, literature research, we found that products that did say they were ‘green’ still use toxic chemicals,” Choi continued. “Our product does not use any toxic chemicals.”
Choi told Hoosier Ag Today that the primary market for StyroSoy would be in the electronics space because they don’t use anything but Styrofoam for protection inside the box. However, it could easily be adapted for other uses.
“With different research and development, we can probably change the density, shape to be able to protect anything. Also, our product is heat resistant. It can withstand high temperatures; it doesn’t dissolve in water. So, we’re also looking into being insulation or food packaging products.”
Choi is grateful to the Indiana Soybean Alliance for hosting the competition. She’s very glad she came to the callout at the beginning of the school year that encouraged participation.
“The thought of creating a new product, like a novel product, was really insane to me, because it’s just revolutionary. Especially for just being a college student. So, I was able to learn a lot through this competition.”
Team StyroSoy also won the People’s Choice Award, a $500 award determined by votes of the more than 200 attendees prior to the awards ceremony.
Earning second place this year, and a $10,000 prize, were the creators of SoySafe, a soy-based replacement for construction-quality drywall that is fire resistant and more environmentally friendly than gypsum-based drywall. SoySafe drywall is also cheaper and easier to produce than commonly used drywall products.
Team SoySafe consists of three Purdue sophomores including Sarah Juffer, an animal science major from Fishers, Ind.; Charles Sebright, an agricultural and biological engineering major from East Berlin, Penn.; and Josh Stephenson, a biochemistry major from Muncie, Ind. All three were members who finished second in last year’s competition with a soy-based ink for markers that can be used on dry-erase boards called Brilliant Bean.
Finishing third, and earning a $5,000 prize, were the creators of SOYscara, which is a mascara that is composed of mainly soy materials. SOYscara is made from 99 percent natural, organic ingredients. The soy-based formula is a better option for personal wellness, and it is also more sustainably sourced than the materials that make up most of the affordable products on the shelf. Team SOYscara consists of three Purdue students including freshman engineering major Jason Li of Oklahoma City, Okla.; sophomore biological engineering major Alison Dunbar of New Lenox, Ill. And sophomore biological engineering major Conway Zheng of Bethany, Okla.
“Indiana soybean checkoff funds are used to find new uses and new markets for our soybeans, which creates more demand and helps our farms to be more profitable and sustainable,” said ISA Chair Mike Koehne, a farmer from Greensburg, Ind. “This event allows ISA to create relationships with bright and innovative students and their mentors at Purdue. Some of the products from this contest will help us move more soybeans into the market.”