2013–2014 Members of The Society of Innovators

March 31, 2014 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips


Julie Bombacino, Fellow

Julie Bombacino, President, Real Food Blends, Chesterton, is the first to launch a new line of “blended real food meals” for tube-fed people. There are no ready-to-serve shelf-stable real food meal options for tube-fed children and adults, who rely upon a formula that typically is 50% corn syrup. She was inspired by her son, AJ, and his condition. Estimates indicate nearly 1 million tube-fed people in the U.S.

Mike Falk, Fellow

Mike Falk, PE, LS, CEO President, Falk PLI Engineering and Surveying, Portage, is the first to introduce advanced surveying instruments called laser trackers and laser scanners in the global steel industry in NWI and beyond. He introduced a faster, more accurate technology from the space and automotive industries that helps steel companies optimize performance, ensure alignment, and improve safety.

Dr. Nina Fonstein, Fellow

Nina M. Fonstein, Ph.D., a retired scientist and now consultant, is a world-recognized expert in the development of the “new steels” that are stronger, lighter and more environmentally friendly for ArcelorMittal Global Research and Development Center, East Chicago. This former technical manager published the first book in the world on dual-phase steels.

Micky Gallas, Tip Tee Toe Golf Shoes

Micky Gallas, owner of Micky Gallas Properties and CEO, Tip Tee Toe Golf Shoes, Long Beach, invented and commercialized the first and only wedge sole golf shoe for women. The shoe is patented and “USGA confirming.” Equipped with a higher heel, this is the only legal wearable training aid that improves the player’s balance, weight transfer and “allows the player to make a strong athletic move on the ball.”

Dr. Lisa Hopp, Fellow

Lisa Hopp, Ph.D., RN FAAN, Purdue University Calumet, is founding director of the Indiana Center for Evidenced-Based Nursing Practice (ICEBNP), the first in the Midwest as part of a global effort to encourage ‘best available evidence’ in nursing.

To improve patient outcomes in area hospitals, she launched the “Evidence Implementation Fellowship” involving nursing teams to encourage best practices in 2012.

Don Keller, Fellow

Don Keller, Tri-State Industries, Fellow

Don Keller, President and CEO of Tri-State Industries, Hammond, is the first in Northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area to launch an integrated system to sell refurbished robots. This pioneer in “lean manufacturing” also provides cells for robotic welders, programming and training for operators. Tri-State Automation is designed as a “one-stop shop” to give small manufacturers a competitive edge.

Stewart McMillan, Gerald I. Lamkin Fellow for Innovation Service

Stewart McMillan, President, Task Force Tips, Valparaiso, led a transformation in product development by using technology in a new way to involve more employees and distributors globally. He realized sustainability depended upon strategically involving the entire organization rather than relying upon a few individuals for ideas. TFT is an innovative leader in water flow equipment worldwide.

Adela Ortega, Professional Locomotive Services, East Chicago

Adela Ortega, President, Professional Locomotive Services, East Chicago established the first independent and privately owned customized locomotive manufacturing and repair facility in NWI in which she initiated spur line connectivity with Canadian National. Her company is the first woman-owned independent repair service for locomotives in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

Kathleen Kane, Michigan City Area Schools

Kathleen Kane, SNS, Director of Food Service Operations, led the introduction of a Styro Genie that converts styrofoam lunch trays into pavers at Lake Hills Elementary Stem School. A second Genie will be at Pine Elementary School for the Visual and Performing Arts. Estimates are that both Genies will recycle at least 135,000 foam trays totaling about 1200 cubic feet, which would look like 60 twin size mattresses stacked atop one another.

Chris Mahlmann, IDEAS in Motion Media

Chris Mahlmann, President Founder, IDEAS in Motion Media, launch four online news networks that celebrate positive news in Porter, LaPorte and Lake Counties. His model is spreading to the South Bend market and beyond in 2014. An awards recognition program, the “Good Life Awards” is held annually, and the company has published 35,000 articles, 650 videos, 225,000 photos and content from 2600 contributors. He started the company above his garage with 3 staff members and now employs 30 people.

Mayor Keith Soderquist of Lake Station

Mayor Keith Soderquist of Lake Station championed the new City Hall. It is the only non-park local government building in Indiana DESIGNED to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED Gold certification. The building utilizes a variety of renewable energy sources, including a roof-mounted solar array, geothermal energy and three wind turbines. There are only 5 LEED certified buildings in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties.

Michell Robinson, YOUnique Yoga

Michelle Robinson, Founder, YOUnique Yoga, Schererville, offers free weekly yoga classes to victims of domestic abuse at St. Jude’s House “on location.” These free classes offer both mental and physical benefits to adults of St. Jude’s. She also offers weekly yoga classes to the children present at the shelter. If patrons donate a mat for use by those at St. Jude’s, she offers a free class. Soon, she will offer “GIRL’s ROCK YOGA,” dedicated to enhancing girls’ lives through yoga.

Joshua Deboer, 16, Tech Team 911

Joshua Deboer, 16, is a high school graduate, business owner and now a $90,000 Westwood Scholarship recipient who has launched a computer repair and service company called Tech Team 911. His parents allowed him to purchase an “old retired White Sox” ambulance and stock it with emergency supplies to fix computers. He has differentiated himself through a clever marketing campaign in a very busy field of computer repairs.

Supt. Barbara Eason-Watkins, Michigan City Area Schools

To differentiate Michigan City Area Schools, Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins launched an area-wide feeder system to prepare students for jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and math. She established Indiana’s only public STEM magnet school, Lake Hills Elementary; created themed middle schools in STEM and Environmental Science; and developed high school and career/tech STEM pathways. Just recently, Krueger Middle School received the Indiana Governors Award for Environmental Education for its “Science in the Sun” Outdoor Learning Center.

Barbara Tracy, Marilyn’s Bakery

As owner with her husband Robert Eustace, Barb Tracy has led Marilyn’s Bakery to be acclaimed for producing 65,000 pies a year, while championing locally produced seasonal foods. The bakery is a second generation business located next to a third generation market that both grew out of an existing 5th generation farm. She champions her mother Marilyn’s legacy of farm values and applies them in a new way in a 21st century model. Barb sponsored our 18th Innovators Café.

Bonnie Trout, European Market

To solve the problem of a “quiet downtown” on Saturdays, Bonnie Trout, Chesterton, pioneered the European Market. This is the first French Market-inspired market in Northwest Indiana based upon the historic French Market in Paris. It was initially modeled after a market in Wheaton launched by French entrepreneurs. When talks broke down, she launched a new model with lots of help. This grew from 23 vendors to today, 190 vendors.

Dr. Lana Zimmer, Hoophouse Farming Eduventure

Launched by Lana Zimmer, Ph.D. at Saint Joseph’s College, the Hoophouse Farming Eduventure is a collaboration in organic hoophouse farming. It is one of three projects funded in 2012 by the Ball Foundation Venture Fund, providing seed money for start-up creative and innovative programs among independent colleges in Indiana. This is the first sustainable agriculture program of its kind at a liberal arts college in the region.


Nature in My Neighborhood Team – Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

This is the first of 401 national parks to launch a “Nature in My Neighborhood” program that features a free Nature Play Zone to reach youth in urban communities. Located at the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education in Gary, these initiatives also utilized the park’s new distance learning platform to target new audiences.

Kemin/Lambert Spearmint Team – Co-Recipient of the Chanute Prize

This team uses innovative growing and post-harvest processes for patented spearmint varieties unique to Starke County. This specialty crop produces an all-natural extract that has both flavoring and antioxidant properties effective in delaying lipid oxidation, color loss and deterioration in human food, animal food and other products for global markets.

2020 Vision: From Diesel to Natural Gas Team – Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete, Inc.

Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete, Mokena, IL, with its Indiana Division in Gary – This company is the first in the Midwest and one of the first in the U.S. to transition its 500 concrete mixers and support vehicles from diesel to natural gas (CNG). With plans to complete the transition by 2020, Ozinga introduced the first CNG front discharge ready mix truck in the world at its Gary offices, said Tim Ozinga, Director of Communications, Ozinga Bros., Inc.

Take 5 for Life –

Community Healthcare System and Community Hospital Fitness Pointe

Take 5 for Life is an elementary school program that targets the rise in childhood obesity in disadvantaged neighborhoods exacerbated by declining fitness programs. This program emphasizes “movement” and nutrition by training teachers to increase activity and wellness in the classroom. An estimated 5,000 children and families have benefited.

Tuskegee Airmen, EAA Young Eagles Program at the Gary/Chicago International Airport Team – Co-Recipient of the Chanute Prize

This provides the first and only monthly Young Eagles Aviation Program in the United States affiliated with the Experimental Aviation Association offering free flights at the Gary/Chicago International Airport to perpetuate the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. Some 14,000 youth have participated in this initiative that started at Meigs Field in 1994.

The Homelessness Prevention Internship Team -

Donald Spears of Ivy Tech Northwest launched an Associates-level human services internship program that coordinates efforts for dual-level internships to provide services for local homeless men, and a learning environment for students. This involves interns and faculty from Ivy Tech and IUN, along with staff of New Creation Men’s Center for homeless men. It teams up two educational institutions, a local non-profit, and small resale shop.

Lake County Community Transition Court

One of 8 reentry courts in Indiana, this court is unique in that it modifies the individual’s Department of Corrections’ placement into the Lake County Community Corrections Program 8 to 12 months prior to their earliest possible release. This modification allows for strict supervision through an in-court process. Modifying sentences to devote more time to transition and integration into society differentiates this court, said Judge Salvador Vasquez.

Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail Team- Indiana Dunes Tourism

Indiana Dunes Tourism worked with 60 site owners and others to create a “discovery trail” across Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper, Newton and Pulaski Counties. It also threads all of the cities and towns of Porter County together. By taking historical and natural assets and linking them by themes, it promotes the overall trail system and includes an improvement plan for each site. This is the only nature-based trail site in Indiana, said Lorelei Weimer, executive director.

GLC NASA – ARISS Contact Experience Team ok

Gary Literacy Coalition, Inc

Linking Gary students to the International Space Station, the Gary Literacy Coalition worked with an amateur radio team to let students speak directly to astronauts on May 8, 2012. At 2:35 p.m., this team – which stands for Amateur Radio on the International Space Station – made history when the first contact experience took place between students in an urban school district and the Space Station! The idea of including elementary, middle and high school students was also a ‘first” involving 4 schools, said Era Twyman, executive director.

Dunes Creek Daylighting Team- Indiana Dunes State Park

At the Indiana Dunes State Park, a project that began in 2005 re-created a stream that had been channeled into a culvert pipe years ago. Called “Daylighting,” this is the first project of its kind in Indiana and among the first in the nation. To restore this creek covered by an auxiliary parking lot that was badly deteriorating, the second phase of this $1.4 million project was completed in 2011, said Brandt Baughman, property director. Now it’s a shining example of innovative teamwork!

Quality Patient Safety Strategic Initiative Team -Indiana University Health LaPorte Hospital

This hospital has received national acclaim for its “fair and just culture” that has led to fixing safety problems before they arise. Shifting from a “blame culture,” its executive team embraced a creative and innovative climate that involves all 1800 employees emphasizing trust, agreeable disagreement, and idea generation. The results include being named one of 66 “safety superstars” in the U. S., and raising net revenue from $135 million to $235 million, said G. Thor Thordarson, President.

South Shore Clean Cities

South Shore Clean Cities received the highest honor given to over 100 Clean Cities Coalition by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2012 following a reduction of fuel consumption by over 11,167,105 gasoline gallon equivalents. This contributed to an 87,123 ton reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The SSCC Team is led by Carl and Lorrie Lisek, the only husband and wife team among these coalitions in the U.S. Lorrie, who serves as President of Legacy Environmental, is Executive Director for Wisconsin Clean Cities.

South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail Team – South Shore Convention Visitors Authority

The Trail uses technology to reclaim the lost legacy of those from our region who served during the Civil War. This web-based trail is a partnership between the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority and the Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project led by Marc Chase of The Times. It brings together the cemeteries, monuments and architectural icons related to these veterans, combined with displays at the Indiana Welcome Center, said Speros Batistatos, president and CEO. This initiative has led to the replacement of over 80 headstones of Civil War Veterans across Northwest Indiana.

Porter County Veterans Treatment Court – Porter County PACT, Inc.

This is the first Veterans Treatment Court in Northwest Indiana offering a non-traditional approach to law-violating behavior of veterans. This court is designed specifically to serve justice involving veterans whose behavior is connected to military service. The program was developed due to the increasing number of veterans in Porter County. Judge Julia Jent envisioned a better way to address the unique needs of justice for veterans.

Innovative Technology for Better Patient Care – Prompt Ambulance Service

Prompt Ambulance has gained national recognition for its use of technology to better serve a growing patient load from Chicago to South Bend. Now among the largest private ambulance services with 100,000 calls annually, Prompt made a $2 million investment in a state-of-the-art dispatch center. This technology combined with their own unique systems, helped in the relocation of patients at Porter Regional. Now other providers are asking for this service elsewhere in the nation. Likely only a dozen ambulance services in the U.S. have this level of technology led by Gary and Shar Miller in Highland.

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