Dozen Finalists Announced for Annual Innovation Awards

GARY – A groundbreaking jet engine casting that helped launch a $100 million local plant expansion; a turnaround of a “stagnant” school system stimulated by Jim Collins’ classic Good to Great; a “hotrod therapy” to divert disabled veterans from suicides by rebuilding motorcycles; and a new accelerated cooling technology for steel plate products are among the finalists selected for implementing their inspired ideas by The Society of Innovators.

Ivy Tech Community College is announcing the 2017-2018 finalists in preparation for The Society of Innovators annual awards next month. Top awards will be given in the individual Fellows category, as well as in the team category at the 13th annual innovators induction on Oct. 26th at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. Team awards are the Chanute Prize for Team Innovation and the Leonardo da Vinci Accelerating Greatness Award introduced in 2014.

“These innovations help our region be more competitive and improve our quality of life,” said John Davies, managing director of The Society, which is part of the college. “Ivy Tech is proud to serve the community by inspiring innovation across the 7-counties of Northwest Indiana.”

Twelve finalists, consisting of five teams and seven individuals, have been named. Nominations were accepted from Jasper, Lake, La Porte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski and Starke counties.

All finalists are to receive honorary lifetime membership in The Society. Up to six of the individuals could be inducted as Fellows. Up to two teams could be co-recipients of the Chanute Prize as well as of the da Vinci Award for Team Innovation.

Ivy Tech launched The Society of Innovators in 2005. It is the largest project of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center led by Director O’Merrial Butchee. The center is based at the Gary-35th Avenue location of Ivy Tech’s Lake County campus.


Finalist Candidates for the Chanute Prize and Leonardo da Vinci Accelerating Greatness Award for Team Innovation:


The Arconic Power and Propulsion La Porte Engineering Team led by Chris Kraynak, Director, Structural Operations, pioneered the manufacturing process for a first-of-its-kind, single piece casting for Pratt & Whitney’s next generation Pure Power® geared Turbo Fan™ jet engine. Arconic’s La Porte facility is the only place in the world manufacturing this highly complex, mid turbine frame casting. The casting is nicknamed “the cornerstone” because its implementation laid the foundation for a $100 million plant expansion, that is capturing growing demand for advanced jet engine components and has created more than 300 advanced manufacturing jobs.


The Hammond Group, Inc. (HGI) led by Chairman & CEO Terry Murphy completed its state-of-the-art Lead Acid Battery Laboratory in 2015. The laboratory was created to work with industry to improve battery charge acceptance (rechargeability) and cycle life to meet the ever-increasing demands from automobile manufacturers and renewable energy markets. In 2016, HGI received the Battery Council International’s inaugural global innovation award for their advanced chemistry breakthroughs and industry commitment at the new R&D center on Michigan Street.


The Multi Agency Academic Cooperative (MAAC) Foundation launched a state-of-the-art training facility for first responders in Valparaiso. The aim is to provide a centralized training and education facility for fire fighters, law enforcement and EMS personnel previously unavailable in the state. Launched with a gift by the McMillan Family Foundation, this is uniquely governed by a public/private partnership in which MAAC partners with the IDHS District I Training Council covering a five-county region serving 80 fire departments and multiple first responder units.


ArcelorMittal Global R&D Center in East Chicago partnered with its sister R&D Centers in France to create the first-of-its-kind accelerating cooling technology called ACCtec for steel plate products in the USA. Charles Romberger, Senior Principal Scientist, said the patent pending application is capable of extremely high cooling rates on thick plate products providing less variable mechanical properties and improved flatness. This “pioneering” technology was designed, implemented and commissioned at the Burns Harbor 160” Plate Mill. This technology will make ArcelorMittal more competitive globally.


Sonam Technologies, LLC led by brothers Chris and Michael Hanson invented and commercialized a portable test device that measures the impact absorption properties of recreational surface systems. This device is “faster, better and cheaper” than the current technology available. The device is created so that the average person can routinely perform tests in the field. This patented technology is designed to ensure that surface systems are in compliance, thereby taking aim at the growing number of children’s head injuries.


Individuals named as Fellow Candidates:


Dr. Teresa A. Eineman, Crown Point Community School Corporation Superintendent, led a systems-based approach to turn around a “stagnant” district by implementing a continuous improvement model applying proven business practices to education that put Crown Point among elite performing districts in Indiana and the nation. This transformation over 12 years was inspired by the “Good to Great” classic leading to more accountability, enhanced performance and new ideas from her team of principals and staff.


Norm Fischer, Chief Engineer, The Fischer Group, Crown Point, invented an Energy Efficient Compressed Air Desiccant Dryer. This dryer is uniquely different in patented design because it creates energy savings by not using plant air for the drying process. His firm designed, built and installed three large dryers for ArcelorMittal, replacing three inefficient desiccant dryers. Energy savings is in excess of 7 million kilowatts annually, equivalent to $500,000 in savings per year, said Julie Fischer, President.


Chris Mahlmann, Founder, Ideas in Motion Media, Valparaiso, launched a “good news” online company covering Lake, Porter and La Porte Counties. It began over his garage and now his business model featuring only positive news employs 20 fulltime employees producing four “Life” editions serving 65.000 readers. He began by introducing his idea to existing media, and then the former president of a financial markets company decided to launch it himself. He was named a Society Member in 2013.


Michael E. Schrage, Chairman, President, CEO, Centier Bank, Merrillville, transformed a small, family bank that is 122 years old, and today is the largest bank of deposit in Northwest Indiana, and Indiana’s largest private bank. His success has demonstrated innovative marketing

through the “not for sale” emphasis and putting values to work for customers that influence 850 employees. This turnaround had its origins in a near bank failure in the 80’s followed by a traumatic health experience in the early 90’s. He was named a Society Member in 2006.


Frank Schilling, Foundation President & Founder, The Shrine of Christ’s Passion, St. John, launched this global attraction situated on 30 acres featuring 40 bronze sculptures placed along a winding half-mile multi-media enhanced and interactive trail that depicts the last days of Christ’s life. Frank and his wife Shirley invested $15 million to create the high tech, high touch attraction of “Jerusalem in Your Backyard” visited by 150,000 people annually, including those from 43 foreign countries. He was named a Society Member in 2008.


Jason Zaideman, President/COB/Founder, Operation Combat Bikesaver, Cedar Lake, launched his “hotrod therapy” idea to help disabled veterans and first responders, and prevent suicides.  With many veterans and first responders not having outlets, he knew that creating “something from nothing” could be different and therapeutic, said Lindsey Zaideman, nominator. Working in teams on old motorcycles, his goal is to help veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Depression by rebuilding their own motorcycles for “free.”


Chenn Qian Zhou, Ph.D., is Founding Director of the Steel Manufacturing Simulation and Visualization Consortium (SMSVC) based at Purdue University Northwest. Named a Society Fellow in 2005 and a recipient of the Chanute Prize in 2012, Dr. Zhou is nominated for the Society’s highest Fellow Award named the Gerald I. Lamkin Fellow for Innovation and Service. She organized the steel consortium among steelmakers to advance the beleagured steel industry by focusing on new technologies, including simulation and visualization.


Ivy Tech Community College is the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system.  Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its community along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.



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