WEST LAFAYETTE - Three Purdue University students took home an award of $20,000 for their first-place entry in the Student Soybean Product Innovation Competition funded by the Indiana Soybean Checkoff. Their product, a completely biodegradable soy-based drinking straw, offers the material consistency of a plastic straw, but is an environmentally-friendly alternative.

The winning students entered the contest as "Team Stroy."  Natalie Stephenson, a senior from Fairland, in the Krannert School of Management studying marketing and data analytics, Morgan Malm, a graduate student from Fort Wayne, pursuing a master’s degree in food science and Ruth Zhong, a senior from Carmel, studying electrical engineering make up the team.  

Thirty-seven Purdue students representing 12 teams participated in this year’s contest. 

The teams began work on their proposals in September, developing and testing their ideas and completing market research reports for their products. The products were judged by soybean farmers, marketing specialists and scientists at Purdue University on March 4.

“A biodegradable drinking straw really combines a concern in today’s headlines with the potential of innovation,” said Nancy Cline, a farmer from Kirklin, and Indiana Soybean Alliance grain marketing and utilization committee chair. “Team Stroy captured the essence of this contest. We want to show the versatility of soybeans while addressing a need in society. The Indiana Soybean Alliance is very happy to work with Purdue students in the contest as we look to expand markets for soybeans grown in Indiana.”