A group of Valparaiso University alumni have come together to create an innovative product to help combat COVID-19.
The graduates, including former Valpo football quarterback and Elgin, Ill. native Ben Lehman (2010-2014), work together at Task Force Tips, which develops innovative products that help firefighters save lives and protect property as safely and effectively as possible.
The Valparaiso-based company’s newest product, the KLEAN/pak, was developed as a means of disinfecting playgrounds, parks, bleachers, outdoor stadium seating, shopping carts, bay doors, trash bins and many other surfaces using an EPA-approved dilatable liquid and garden hose.
“At Task Force Tips, we’re all about saving lives and protecting property,” Lehman said. “To have a product like this that can reach a greater audience and have a greater impact makes it even more meaningful. This has given us an opportunity to reach everyday consumers and industrial uses. We think we have an unmatched product and we’re excited to see the impact that it can have.”
The group of Valpo graduates who work at Task Force Tips include Lehman, Bob Steingass, Martin Sonnenberg, Laura Walker, Erin Roark, Doug Burge, Alex Watson, Will Foy and Julie Behnke. Steingass, the company’s Director of Research and Development, had the initial idea for the KLEAN/pak. The first prototype started in the driveway at Steingass’s house. Behnke’s father Clyde McMillan started the company based on the idea of a constant pressure fire nozzle.
Lehman works on the commercial side as the company’s Western Region & Southwest Territory Manager. All of the Valpo alumni involved in Task Force Tips are putting what they learned during their time on campus to good use.
Lehman started at quarterback for Valpo as a senior in 2014, compiling 2,477 all-purpose yards that season. That mark still ranks fifth in single-season program history. He balanced the incredible time demands of being a successful student-athlete with volunteering for the Washington Township Fire Department during his undergraduate tenure.
“My experience at Valpo taught me that you have to be flexible and willing to act,” Lehman said. “There is a certain amount of risk involved in that. You have to evaluate that risk and determine whether or not it’s worth it. There was a coaching change at the end of my junior year when Dave Cecchini was brought in. I had a passion for football, and overnight something changed at the top. I had to prove myself to Coach Cecchini and show him that I was someone he could rely on. Athletics taught me how to be flexible and assume risk when necessary.”
Sonnenberg and Lehman graduated from Valpo’s College of Business, while the other aforementioned TFT employees are Valpo College of Engineering products.
“All of us learned the importance of flexibility and assessing risk during our time at Valpo,” Lehman said. “Valpo does a very effective job of helping young people understand what’s better than just their life being better. At 18- or 19-years-old, you’re probably not thinking of more than yourself. Because of the experience at the University, you see the bigger picture and find ways you can have a positive impact on that bigger picture.”
Additional information on Task Force Tips including how to order the KLEAN/pak can be found by visiting http://www.klean-pak.com/.