Six student projects selected for spring startup program

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Six student projects have been selected for the spring 2015 New Leaf - Lion Launch Pad (NL3) program.

Established in May, the University-community partnership provides an opportunity for students to work on a specific project at New Leaf Initiative.

Located on Allen Street and close to Penn State’s University Park campus, New Leaf offers a gathering space for mission-driven individuals, organizations and resource providers from diverse backgrounds to connect and collaborate.

The six winning projects were chosen from among 15 teams that participated in a two-minute pitch contest Jan. 21 at New Leaf.

The projects are:

-- Time Out, Callie Rojewski, junior in advertising-public relations. She is developing an app to help people take a break from their smartphones.

-- Resume Ruby, Mitch Robinson, senior in energy, business and finance. He is creating top-quality resume templates that are specific to majors.

-- Simple Car Wash, Taylor Mitcham, senior in mining engineering. She is working on a waterless car wash that can be done on a car anywhere, anytime.

-- VIVE, Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, junior in bioengineering. She is developing a device that will enhance communication for those who are unable to speak.  

-- TeacherBox, Nicole Kelner, senior in advertising-public relations. She will work with Chris Danilo, a 2011 graduate of the College of the Liberal Arts and community entrepreneur, to create a monthly delivery service of boxes of classroom supplies, new educational software and a small gift to teachers.

-- Mobium Solutions, Justin Keenan and Kevin Paroda, sophomores in engineering. They are developing add-on technology for 3-D printers that will make printing objects as simple as 2-D paper copying.

In addition, GreenTowers, an inaugural NL3 program participant, received the Legacy Award, which acknowledges the team’s foundational role in New Leaf.

Galen Bernard, executive director of New Leaf and one of the NL3 judges, said, “This sets a precedent for future NL3 participants. The award could be given again to a team that participates actively in the program and New Leaf’s community.”

GreenTowers designs products to reconnect people to nature and to their food. The company includes Dustin Betz (Class of 2014, biology); Mike Zaengle, a senior in architecture; Jared Yarnall-Schane (Class of 2014, mechanical engineering); and Jonathan Gumble, a graduate student in horticulture.

As part of the NL3 program, the teams will receive a seven-hour/week co-working membership at New Leaf, potential for a $500 grant through Lion Launch Pad and monthly progress meetings with NL3 leaders and other program participants.

Keenan described the pitch contest as extremely challenging. “All of the ideas were really incredible. Passionate people presented their pitches, and we were fortunately one of the six teams selected.”

McCulloch agreed, “Two minutes is a short time to give an overview of your product, but it forces you to be clear and concise when explaining your product.”

Liz Kisenwether, co-director of Lion Launch Pad and director of the intercollege minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, served as the timekeeper for the pitch event. She added, “Choosing six teams out of 15 was not easy. It’s a sign of the growing interest by students to create new products that solve real problems and needs.”

McCulloch said she is excited to have a space where she can go and bounce ideas off of other entrepreneurs.

Keenan has his sights set on using New Leaf as the location to shoot a Mobium Solutions Kickstarter video. “We hope to launch by the beginning of the summer.”

While the NL3 program helps students as they design and build projects that will impact society, it is also creating awareness that New Leaf is a valuable resource for faculty, staff, students and the community.

McCulloch had not heard about New Leaf before she entered the pitch contest. “I was told about it the day before and quite literally ran to sign up. I am really looking forward to experiencing all New Leaf has to offer.”

For more information about NL3, contact Kisenwether at exk13@psu.edu.

Last Updated January 29, 2015