Summer Founders Program helps engineering students enhance startups

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On Thursday, Sept. 1, six teams of student entrepreneurs gathered together in the State College Municipal Building for Demo Day, an event that gave students the opportunity to present the work they have done as participants in Penn State's Summer Founders Program.

The Summer Founders Program provides each team with $10,000 — made possible through the donations of other entrepreneurs — to work on their projects over a 10-week period.

From May 26 to Aug. 7, the students fully committed to work full time on their funded projects. Every Thursday night, the Summer Founders Program participants met with other founders, entrepreneurs and mentors to further improve their project designs.

All the teams this year achieved great success during the program, such as:

  • Phospholutions: A company founded by undergraduate students Hunter Swisher and Erin Knabe. They commercialized a Penn State designed technology to improve fertilizer application outcomes while reducing pollutant runoff. According to the duo, the company has already begun making sales to golf courses in Florida after successful trial results. "We are now working on spreading the word about our products, and also starting to tackle pollution issues," said Swisher.
  • First Pick: A phone application created by engineering undergraduates Dilanka Dharmasena and Patrick O'Connor and aerospace engineering junior Farabi Sameer. The app is designed to help students find, organize and join local sports, games and other activities. First Pick has already been deployed and is now being used widely by Penn State students to arrange sports games around campus. "We try to help people interact with strangers the same way they interact with friends," said Dharmasena.
  • Play Physic: A breath-controlled video game created by mechanical engineering undergraduate Ishana Shekhawat. The idea is to monitor a patient's health condition, keep the patient's interest up and mind off any physical pain while performing lung exercises.

Other startups that presented at Demo Day were:

  • CurioSpace, a company that focuses on designing and distributing materials for use in refugee camps and displaced communities;
  • The Enigma Club, a company providing immersive mysteries and interactive real-world gaming experiences; and
  • Lost in Translation, an immersive virtual reality language-learning tool.

CurioSpace included mechanical engineering graduate student Jessica Menold. Engineering undergraduate and Schreyer Scholar Samuel Barnes was a member of the Lost in Translation team.

More information about Penn State's Summer Founders Program is available on the program's website.

Last Updated January 24, 2017