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Innovation Challenge Expo audience to hear, vote on pitches

For six years, budding entrepreneurs and inventors have put their best business and technology ideas on display for the public at Trine University’s annual Innovation Challenge Expo.

This year, the public can pick their favorites.

For the first time, audience members will have the opportunity to hear pitch presentations at the Expo along with judges. Judges’ votes will still determine the winners of cash prizes, funded by Fifth Third Bank, Greater Indiana, while projects receiving the most audience votes will be honored with People’s Choice awards.

“This new format not only provides the audience with a more engaging experience, it’s more in line with what competitors will encounter at other pitch events,” said Jason Blume, executive director of Trine innovation 1, which hosts the event. “We hope the result is that not only is the event more fun, but contestants will be better prepared to seek additional funding to support their ideas.”

The competition, which is free and open to the public, will be held over two days in the T. Furth Center for Performing Arts. Pitches for the high school division will take place beginning at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 19, while those from the Trine University campus and community members will begin at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 21.

On both days, competitors will present business ideas in the morning, with awards for the top ideas presented about noon. Technology pitches will take place in the afternoon, with awards for that category at 2 p.m.

High school students will compete for a top prize of $2,000 and a second prize of $1,000 in each division.

Campus and community members also have two prizes in each division: $3,000 for first and $1,000 for second.

This year marks the first time the Innovation Challenge has held a dedicated competition for high school students. The contest debuted in 2014 and has been financially supported by Fifth Third Bank, Greater Indiana.