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Mississippi Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge

Filed Under:
Publication Number: M2037
Updated: April 15, 2015
View as PDF: M2037.pdf
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Helping to grow a sweeter tomorrow



  • To improve experiential learning and undergraduate research opportunities through service-learning for a diverse group of Mississippi State University students, while addressing one of the state’s unique agricultural problems—developing value-added products from cull-grade sweet potatoes.


  • About 30% of sweet potatoes do not meet increasingly stringent customer demands, reducing income for growers and the state of Mississippi.
  • The Mississippi Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge is a collaborative effort among the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council, MSU Extension Service, teaching faculty, Center for the Advancement of Service-Learning Excellence, and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
  • The Challenge is inspired by George Washington Carver and the Purdue Soybean and Corn Product Innovation Competitions.

How It Works

Fall Semester (Stage one):

  • Students are introduced to the problem within the structure of service-learning courses and actively engage in developing solutions.
  • Students present a proposed solution to a panel of experts and are given the option to advance that solution to a functional prototype.

Spring Semester (Stage two):

  • Prototype development occurs under the mentorship of a faculty member, and seed funding is provided to the teams.
  • At the end of this co-curricular stage, prototypes are presented to potential industry partners.
  • A winner is chosen and the product is prepared for distribution.

What Is Service-Learning?

  • Students conduct hands-on learning activities while giving back to the community and meeting academic course objectives.
  • Students learn how to solve real-world problems with the help of faculty and community partners.
  • This high-impact practice helps promote student responsibility and critical thinking skills.

What’s In It for Me?

  • Develop new partners within the community—opening new doors and research opportunities.
  • Equip students with knowledge to enter the working world.
  • Win a prize of unrestricted funds payable to your home department (paid to mentor of awarded team).
  • Build personal relationships with students who will be highly influential.


Questions about industry, program, or potential uses—
Dr. Stephen Meyers
Assistant Extension Professor


Questions about engineering, licensing, or design—
Dr. Jason Ward
Assistant Extension Professor


Questions about service-learning coursework—

Dr. April Heiselt
CASLE Director


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Copyright 2015 by Mississippi State University. All rights reserved. This publication may be copied and distributed without alteration for nonprofit educational purposes provided that credit is given to the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in furtherance of Acts of Congress, May 8 and June 30, 1914. GARY B. JACKSON, Director M2037 (20-04-15)



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