Student entrepreneurs’ winning ideas celebrated during Startup Week

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- During the inaugural Penn State Startup Week, students from across the University participated in a variety of entrepreneurial pitch competitions designed to showcase their innovative ideas in the arts, education, global impact, health, sustainability and technology.

Throughout the week, student teams presented their ideas to panels of expert judges, and the top teams were selected for recognition during a reception at the Pegula Ice Arena on April 20. The event also served as a business expo to expose the students' fledgling businesses to the University community.

Penn State President Eric Barron spoke at the event and commended the aspiring entrepreneurs in attendance. “This week has shown what’s possible when Penn State alumni, students and professionals put their innovative ideas to work,” he said.

The student showcase was the capstone of Penn State Startup Week that demonstrated the University’s continued commitment to inspire and foster entrepreneurship within the Penn State community. “The presentations spanned disciplines from across the University, and provided advice and ideas for the next generation of entrepreneurs,” Barron explained.

Divided in the distinct tracks of Advancing Art and Humanities, Driving Digital Innovation, Enhancing Health, Impacting the World, Stewarding our Planet’s Resources, and Transforming Education, students from different colleges and majors collaborated to develop prospective business plans. 

The teams entered in the Radical Student Experience competition, offered through the Transforming Education track, had the opportunity to develop ideas to enrich or improve students’ lives at Penn State. “Startup Week is great. I love what it is trying to achieve,” said Victoria Arnold, a freshman majoring in economics and finance, and one of the competition winners.

Arnold, along with engineering students Aiden Smith and Tommy Nylec, came up with the idea for “Play and Game,” game-based apps that incentivize students to gain life skills in areas such as finance, health, and community engagement. Arnold said, “They would be fun games, but at the same time [the students] are learning and engaging what with what they do in class.” For example, a game centered on economics could teach students financial skills and give them a chance to earn tuition discounts.

She added, "[Before Startup Week,] I never would have thought I was an entrepreneur. But I got an idea and ran with it. I love this week; it encourages people to get out there and experience more." As a result of their success during Penn State Startup Week, the team plans to continue developing their idea together during the fall semester.

The winning team from the mHealth Challenge, which took place in November 2016 and was aimed at developing initiatives to inspire healthy living and patient care, was also recognized at Thursday’s reception. The Challenge awarded nursing students Justine Scheloske, Chelsea Midtvedt and Mallory Polakovic, and IST student Neil Vohra, for their idea to create an app for new parents to collect data relating to newborn care, called “Nurse Navigator.”   

Within the Driving Digital Innovation track, the IdeaMakers Challenge awarded first place to the student team who developed “Sender,” a mobile app for students to use during class to pinpoint what concepts they need help with. At their final pitch, the team described the app as a “way to digitally raise your hand in class!”

Devin Arrigo, a junior majoring in Enterprise Risk Management in the Smeal College of Business, said, “Startup Week was really the driving force behind getting our idea moving. The pitch competition was a great learning experience for my team, as well as a huge validation for our idea.”

As first-place winners, Arrigo, along with teammates Neal Vasan (junior, electrical engineering), Henry Jungels (junior, molecular and cell biology), Tyler Brown (junior, economics), and Cole Leff (junior, supply chain and information systems), will be heading to Silicon Valley to learn from and network with other startups. Arrigo explained, “This trip will allow us to meet very like-minded people that have gone through what we will go through in the future, which will be hugely helpful.”

These winners represented dozens of students across the University who were able to hone their entrepreneurial skills leading up to Penn State Startup Week.

"I'm so proud of the hard work that all of the teams put into their ideas and pitches. We're excited to see these students continue to work on their ideas, and hopefully advance to the point where they are ready to launch businesses based on their preliminary pitches!" said Alison Murphy, lecturer of IST and co-chair of the Driving Digital Innovation track.

View photos from the Penn State Startup Week student pitch reception here.

Last Updated May 05, 2017