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Four amazing, recent inventions from Racine area minds honored

A robotic arm on wheels built by a 14-year-old to clean up the streets. An online app where users can pray for prayers. A new way to take attendance. And a better way to get your first job.

Racine has long been a hub of innovation. But as America’s second industrial revolution faded, Racine’s reputation has slipped. Since 2020, the Tech Prize competition has aimed to rekindle that fire. The concepts featured in this article were honored earlier this year.

The competition takes pitches and ideas not just from Racine and Wisconsin, but all over. It started as an effort through Visioning a Greater Racine, inspired by ArtPrize, a competition that was started in 2009 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by Rick DeVos, the son of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos.

Many Racine businesses and organizations — including lead sponsors SC Johnson, Racine County and Butter Buds — sponsored Tech Prize earlier this year, providing funding that could help some great ideas become great inventions.

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Prayers answered

Lewis Tucker

Lewis Tucker, bottom, holds his granddaughter, Grace, are pictured here.

Alex Rodriguez

BELOIT — Lewis Tucker, a 54-year-old U.S. Army veteran from Beloit, won the Pitch Competition and was awarded $5,000 for his prayer-based app.

Tucker’s app, Answered Call (, allows people to message, video call and pray for people all over the world.

Answered Call logo

Answered Call logo

The app also works as a resource database for churches, allowing them to post newsletters, documents and important information for members of their congregation on the app.

Tucker has a background in entrepreneurship, but also holds a degree in theology. Tucker had been working in computers since the 1990s, creating a number of companies he has since sold.

The idea for the app came to him when he and his wife were trying to find a way to get people together through prayer.

“We were just looking for a way to get people together on a peer-to-peer basis, to help support one another,” Tucker said. “Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you don’t have anxiety or depression or deal with everything we all deal with.”

Tucker wanted to find an alternative to having to wait and pay a therapist to talk to.

“We wanted something that was inexpensive, and when people needed support they can just immediately go to an app and get somebody to either text or video call with them — to hold them up and support the person,” Tucker said.

Tucker went on to say that a few investors have also given him capital for the app after the presentation given during the pitch contest.

The Answered Call app is currently in its beta testing phase, and it won’t see a wide release across app stores for a few months. Visit to check out the online-browser version of Answered Call.

Alex Gonzales

Alex Gonzales tinkers with his prototype arm in his Caledonia home.

Alex Rodriguez

CALEDONIA — Alex Gonzales, a 14-year-old freshman at The R.E.A.L School, won the high school level idea competition, with an award of $1,000. Gonzales was the only participant in the competition, but that doesn’t make his idea any less innovative.

His entry, titled APlusRobotics, is a prototype robot arm made using a 3D printer. Gonzales showed an interest in robotics at a young age, learning about it in an after-school program at Red Apple Elementary, 914 St. Patrick St., Racine, where he started learning by programming small cars.

Gonzales’s concept for his robot is to be an autonomous trash cleaner for sidewalks. The arm would be on wheels and have a metal frame. The robot arm would drive up and down city sidewalks, collecting trash in a built-in bin, and then deposit the garbage in a designated area at night, which also acts as its charging station. The prototype currently uses 6 different motors and a pile of wiring. It is programmed using C++, a coding language that Gonzales had to learn on his own to program his award-winning robot.

But Gonzales had been working on the project before he found out about the Tech Prize.

“I was just thinking of what my next project would be,” Gonzales said. “I was researching some ideas, and I saw an arm like this that picks up trash, but I thought I could put it on wheels and have it drive along the streets.”

Looking for funding for his project, Gonzales put his idea on the NextDoor app, where he was recommended for the Tech Prize competition by another NextDoor user.

A lot of his time building the prototype was spent watching videos and researching on the internet. Gonzales wants the robot to be autonomous, meaning it would work and think by itself, while still giving him remote access if needed.

While his parents have always been supportive of him, Gonzales did the work all by himself, only being financed by his parents. Gonzales went through several long nights in the process of building the robot, often needing to be sent to bed by his mother, Lisa Gonzales, while waiting for a component to be 3D printed.

“I would tell him that he needs to go to bed,” Lisa said, “and he’s like, ‘It’s got one more hour!’ But I would tell him to just go to bed and it would be done in the morning. Some of this stuff takes hours.”

“Days, even,” Rogelio, Alex’s father, added.

Rogelio likes to tell a story about Alex when he was still doing the after-school program at Red Apple. He and Lisa came to Alex’s last day of school and were presented with a robot car project that Alex had worked on all year to present.

The car had to do a series of tasks before returning to its origin point.

“I’ll be darned if Alex didn’t do it, except it stopped two inches short from the parking (spot), so it stopped short,” Rogelio said. But after reassessing and redoing his math, Alex’s car worked on his second try. “Right there and then, that year is when he started to enjoy doing robotics.”

While residing in Caledonia, Alex and his family felt it was best for him to attend R.E.A.L. School in Sturtevant for its curriculum and what it could offer him. According to his parents, Alex, their youngest, has always been a smart kid. He also excels at playing the flute and has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

While it may be a little too early for Alex to think about where he will be going for college, he is already taking classes at Gateway College’s SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd., Sturtevant, preparing him with college credits even before he finishes first year of high school.

The arm in action

Alex Rodriguez

A new way to take attendance

SOMERS — Bueller? Bueller?

There’s a better way to call the roll, and three University of Wisconsin-Parkside seniors think they have a modern-day solution.

Three seniors attending the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, 900 Wood Rd., won a combined $12,000 scholarship for a phone app they developed to help track attendance on campus. Zolton Nachoczi, Reed Mitchell and Matthew Fallon worked together after being assigned by their professor, Zaid Altahat, to develop a better way to take attendance in a college campus environment.

App Factory

From left: Zolton Nachoczki, Matthew Fallon and Reed Mitchell work on their Tech Prize-winning attendance app in The App Factory, a student run business in University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

Alex Rodriguez

The app works using students’ smartphones and QR codes, allowing students to check themselves using the code. A newly generated code would be made for each class session, and the students would use their smartphone with the UWP app to scan it, checking them in as present in class. Altahat gave the group the prompt after sharing frustration with having to use different manual attendance apps like Canvas or passing out sign-in sheets.

Nachoczi, 22, served as the team lead for the project. His interest in tech started because his father was a computer engineer, and he was scouted by UWP staff to join the university specifically for the app factory. Nachoczi designed a lot of the internal components of the project while Mitchell, 22, designed the user interface of the app — i.e., how the app would look on phone screens as people use it.

Fallon, 25, was brought in later in the process to help develop the Android interface for the app.

Nachoczi, Mitchell and Fallon are all members of the App Factory, a student-run organization within Parkside that specializes in making apps for both the school and outside entities.

Future plans for the app are to allow students to check in using Bluetooth capabilities, meaning attendance in the classroom would have to be constant, deterring leaving during a lecture. The students’ phones would connect via Bluetooth to the teacher’s device. Each phone would be silently “pinged” a determined amount of times during each class; if the ping does not reach the phone, that would mean the student’s phone is too far away and thus would have exited the class.

“A total full attendance tracking system for like a whole class period, not just at the start,” Fallon said of the trio’s future plans for the software. “If anything, it’s cool research into how we can do that, but at best it can be a really helpful tool for teachers who have huge lecture halls for students who might dip out.”

Within the program, teachers would still be able to take attendance manually, in cases where a student does not have a smartphone with them.

Altahat plans to give the app a trial run in the spring 2023 semester.

College kid helps college kids get their first job

Keegan Moldenhauer


MADISON — Keegan Moldenhauer and his company, Internship On Demand, won $2,500 for second prize in the Idea Competition and $1,000 for third prize in the Pitch Competition.

Internship on demand is a platform that makes it easier for college students to find their first professional opportunity.

“We work with employers to build virtual pre-internship(programs) for their organizations that reflects the culture, workplace and necessary skills that candidates need to make and need to have to find their way into that organization,” said Moldenhauer, 26.

Internship on Demand works a lot like other job search platforms — like, intended to help anyone get jobs or hire prospective employees, and Handshake, which is geared toward college students — but it is focused more on aiding people on the site with resources and tools to better prepare them with finding a job.

“They’ve done a great job making it easier for candidates to put themselves out there and showcase who they are, as they are right now,” Moldenhauer said. “But they don’t really do much to help candidates level up their skill sets or professional readiness, which we hear from the student and employer standpoint is crucial from the start of that career journey for many of our candidates.”

Internship on Demand homepage

The landing page of

Moldenhauer co-founded of Internship on Demand with Kit Chow and Ryan McKernan. Moldenhauer serves as the CEO. Internship on Demand launched before the pandemic when Moldenhauer was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Internship on Demand began, as Moldenhauer would put it, with “duct tape and popsicle sticks to make the plane fly.” The team had to post different opportunities for students on other platforms such as Squarespace, but since October it has had its own website.

Internship on Demand’s platform is now live. Go to to check it out.

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