Blue and White Chips wins $7,500 Ag Springboard first place

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Blue and White Chips, a team of two College of Agricultural Sciences student entrepreneurs who make and market naturally colorful blue-and-white potato chips to Penn State fans, won $7,500 and first place at the Ag Springboard student business pitch contest Thursday.

SySTEAMic, a team of five doctoral candidates who envision using diverse comic book characters to promote STEAM — agriculture and STEM — sciences, especially among women and minorities, won the second-place prize and $2,500.

Six finalist teams pitched before a panel of judges throughout Thursday in the fifth annual Ag Springboard contest to inspire new student enterprises in the agricultural sciences. The competition is a signature event of the College of Agricultural Sciences' Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, which helps researchers and students grow their ideas into new ventures that can create jobs and make money.

sliced potatoes

Blue and white potatoes sliced.

Image: Penn State

The win reaffirms all the hard work that's gone into creating the Blue and White potato chip business, said Deanna Spaniel, a junior agribusiness management major, who started the company with partner Ben Nason, a senior horticulture major.

Spaniel described many days of getting on the road at 5 a.m. for the three-hour drive to a partner potato chip facility in York to supervise production of a batch of chips for a few hours, then driving back to Penn State to attend classes in the afternoon.

Nason said he didn't quite believe the announcement at first, after previous disappointments including competing but not placing in the Ag Springboard competition in 2015.

The pair took on the project after learning about potato varieties that produce spuds in a range of colors -- except green -- from Bill Lamont, professor of vegetable crops. They experimented with processing until they were able to create a specialty mix of blue chips made from Purple Majesty potatoes with white chips, marketed to Penn State fans.

They plan to produce and market various color combinations to other fans as a way to enjoy their school colors.

Second-place winner SySTEAMic Action envisions a cast of comic book characters, curriculum and other learning tools to promote careers and teach concepts in science, technology, engineering, agriculture and math. The comic book superheroes and stories will teach key STEAM concepts and provide role models.

The announcement was "beautiful" and offered a "sense of accomplishment," said Jasmine Dillon, member of SySTEAMic Action and a third-year doctoral degree student in animal science.

Ag Springboad 2nd place

Team SySTEAMic Action accepts the second-place award from Earl Harbaugh at the April 14 Ag Springboard awards banquet.

Image: Penn State

Kayla Allyne Echols, a second-year doctoral degree candidate in plant biology, said it was nice that the competition offered a platform for the team to be champions for underrepresented groups.

Each team must pitch concepts in the agricultural sciences categories of sustainability, food, energy, ecosystems, bioproducts and community development. Each team must include one member who is a student in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Earl Harbaugh, whose donation created the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, congratulated all the student teams who participated in the competition. In its five years, 95 student teams and 264 students have competed.

"Don’t ever give up," Harbaugh told the student teams. "We continue to be amazed at the leadership and growth you've demonstrated."

Video profiles of the six finalist teams can be found on the Entrepreneurship and Innovation website.

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Last Updated April 15, 2016