Marshall Co. Students Named Semi-finalists in National Innovation Competition

January 27, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A team of four students at John Marshall High School in Marshall County have been named semifinalists in the national Spirit of Innovation Challenge Awards.

Seniors Andrew Marchlenski, Ryan Gellner, Chase Cassis and Josh McKown were chosen to advance to the next round for their design of a business product that uses microgrid technologies and energy generation science. Their “GreenSwag” marketing product can be used by business, community and medical fitness and wellness centers where rewards systems are in place to reduce operating costs and make memberships reasonably priced.

Their proposed business also would add societal advances by encouraging community wellness through physical activity and reduction of chronic disease such as diabetes, obesity and related health issues. Their business proposal was accepted by a team of judges from the science and business communities as a viable product idea. 

“These students should be commended for their hard work and creativity,” said state Schools Superintendent Jorea Marple. “This achievement will open the door to numerous educational opportunities and I wish them future success.”  

The students, members of the school’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club, also are enrolled in Advanced Placement as well as career and technical courses, including drafting and business. All plan to study engineering at West Virginia University next fall.

“Regardless of what happens from here on, the team wants to pursue their idea even if it’s not a final winner,” said their adviser Mark Swiger.  “After all, the best way to measure college and career readiness is to have students in the design phase throughout their lives.”

The annual Spirit of Innovation competition, sponsored by The Conrad Foundation, challenges high school student teams to use science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to develop the products of tomorrow. Along the way, coaches, world-renowned scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs mentor students and help them turn their idea into a reality.

Each student on a semi-finalist team receives an official certificate of recognition for achieving significant progress in developing a viable product. Teams that advance to the finals receive a certificate of recognition and an invitation to present at the Innovation Summit March 29- 31 in California as well as a $2,000 travel grant. Winners will receive a $5,000 Next Step Grant to continue product development and additional assistance.

Should the John Marshall students advance to the finals, members of the general public can help them capture the People’s Choice Award with their votes. From March 12 to March 23, the general public will be able to visit each team's profile, view their videos, leave comments and vote online. Each individual (marked by e-mail address) can vote only once per challenge category at

For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.