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2009 IDEA winners announced

David Eckstrom and Karen White pose with their IDEA Award for an aviation innovation during the Northwest Minnesota Foundation ceremony May 12 in Crookston, Minn. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Eric Thorsgard of Bemidji accepts his IDEA Award from Dr. Charles Casey during a Northwest Minnesota Foundation ceremony May 12 in Crookston, Minn. Thorsgard designed innovative musical instruments. Submitted Photo2 / 2

CROOKSTON, MINN. - The IDEA Competition announced its four winners May 12 in Crookston at the Northwest Minnesota Foundation Summit: Igniting Innovation.

The four winners are the forte Keyboard Company, IceHogger Industries, Ultralight Soaring Aviation, and Xtreme DnA. Each winner will receive $10,000 in cash to advance their business idea, plus up to an additional $10,000 of specialized technical assistance.

The forte Keyboard Company, owned by Eric Thorsgard and located in Bemidji, will be launching two new keyboard instruments - the forte and condensed keyboards. These keyboards will offer an alternative to people who want to play an instrument that is easier to learn than the piano. Although they can play anything written for the piano, they are completely new instruments because of the innovative configuration of the keys. The company plans to manufacture and market these keyboards for the purpose of music education, enjoyment and performance.

Ultralight Soaring Aviation, Inc, owned by David and Bonnie Ekstrom, is located in Bemidji, MN. The company is launching the StartStick, a cost effective, light weight, self-contained energy pack, which provides all the power needed to start 4-8 cylinder piston engine aircraft. The StartStick is designed to be plugged into the auxiliary power jack on aircraft, and will be available in several configurations, including 12VDC and 24VDC designs. The StartStick can be quickly recharged and is made from fully recyclable parts.

IceHogger Industries, owned by Todd Hamm and located in Bagley, has created a product called the Ice Auger Shroud System for ice fishing. The product is designed as an accessory for power ice augers. The purpose of the system is to control ice chips, slush and water during the drilling process to minimize or eliminate clean-up after drilling. The result is a quicker set-up with less effort. The Shroud also provides the operator protection from rotating parts and flying debris during operation and acts as a protective barrier from the sharp drill flighting during transport.

Xtreme DnA, East Grand Forks, MN, owned by Don and Adam Zejdlik, is located in East Grand Forks. Xreme DnA has developed a snowboard system that focuses on the need for speed with control.

Their system, called the "Missing Link" is designed to be placed onto a small snowboard, giving it a greater side cut, reducing cross-tortional flex, stiffening the board, and giving the rider more control. The innovative design allows snowboarders to reach speeds impossible on a normal snowboard. The Missing Link also reduces the amount of effort it takes to control the snowboard, meaning the rider will not tire as quickly, and can spend more time out on the slopes.

Project Coordinator Michelle Landsverk was very pleased with the results of the competition.

"To have four winners of this caliber is very rewarding to those of us who have taken this competition from concept to reality," Landsverk said. "The 2009 competition may be over, but the 2010 competition opens in September of this year. We encourage Northwest Minnesota innovators to consider entering the next round of competition."

For more information, visit the IDEA website:

The IDEA Competition is a project of Ingenuity Frontier, a collaboration of partners joined by a common purpose -- to grow the economy of Northwest Minnesota by outfitting the next generation of homegrown innovators for success in the global marketplace. IDEA sponsors are Bremer Banks of Crookston and Warren, First National Bank, Mahnomen, the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, University of Minnesota, Crookston, 360º Center for Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence and the Northwest Regional Small Business Development Center. IDEA was made possible through a generous grant from the Blandin Foundation.