Winners of UWL innovation competition announced

Blake Thiele, left, and Bennett Williams were among the winners in a recent campus innovation competition.

Three students at UW-La Crosse took top honors at a recent campus innovation competition.

Student teams presented their business pitches to a panel of judges as part of the UWL I-Innovate Competition Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Students competed for scholarships in one of two categories —Open/Traditional and Science/Technology.

Taking first place in the Open/Traditional category was Nick Anton, with his idea for an online, educational training platform.

Winning in the Science/Technology category was Blake Thiele and Megan Roehrs with their idea for an online connective technology platform. The duo also received the Best Idea of All award.

“I’m looking forward to pursuing this idea with the help of the UWL Innovation Lab,” says Thiele. “I’m excited to see where it goes.” 

Nicholas Hilderbrand was the runner-up in the Open/Traditional category with his idea for an open-captioned theater. The team of Bennett Williams and Mary Middleton was the runner-up in the Science/Technology category with an idea for an online health chart for pets.

The I-Innovate competition is part of the UWL Innovation Lab program created by the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at UWL with financial support from Merchants Bank and other businesses and individuals.

More innovative ideas will be shared in April. The UWL Innovation Lab will hold its third annual Eagle Eye Business Plan Competition on Wednesday, April 3. The event will showcase more detailed business plans providing the financial and market potential of these and other ideas of UWL Innovation Lab participants. There are 14 business concepts being explored in this year’s lab.

The innovation events are coordinated by the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at UW–La Crosse, with participation from the UWL Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organizatio. For more information about this and future events, visit To support the program, contact the SBDC at or call 608.785.8782.

About the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at UW-La Crosse

The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network is a statewide organization supporting entrepreneurs and business owners through no-cost, confidential consulting and targeted educational programs. The La Crosse area SBDC is operated through the UWL College of Business Administration and serves seven counties: Buffalo, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Trempealeau and Vernon. SBDC training programs range from basic short courses to in-depth course programs, including an eight-week business plan writing workshop and several certificate programs in management. In 2018, the La Crosse area SBDC provided business consulting to more than 370 clients and facilitated more than $5.2 million in small business financing from regional lenders and investors. See more at