Student innovators celebrated at Penn State Startup Week reception

Jessica Hallman
April 09, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Interdisciplinary teams of innovative students showcased their ideas and connected with industry professionals at the 2018 Penn State Startup Week Student Recognition and Networking Reception. The event was held on March 29 at Pegula Ice Arena to close the week’s events.

Winners and participants of various entrepreneurship challenges were individually recognized by Penn State President Eric J. Barron.

“This week has shown what’s possible when Penn State alumni, students and professionals put their innovative ideas to work,” said Barron as he addressed the crowd. “The Startup Week presentations spanned disciplines from across the University and provided advice and ideas for the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

The challenges included the IdeaMakers Challenge, sponsored by the College of Information Sciences and Technology; the Arts Business Idea Competition, sponsored by the College of Arts and Architecture; the $100,000 Nittany AI Challenge; hosted by the Penn State EdTech Network; the Inc. U Competition, managed by the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program; the mHealth Challenge, sponsored by the College of Health and Human Development, College of Information Sciences and Technology, and College of Nursing; and the 3-Day IDEA Challenges, hosted by Penn State Startup Week.

“These students are on their way to being future leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation,” added Andrew Sears, dean of the College of Information Sciences and Technology, where Startup Week originated in 2012. “Their ideas will make our world safer, faster and more fun.”

Chandler Goewert, a senior majoring in information sciences and technology, is one student who benefited from Startup Week activities. His team, Kijenzi, won second place in the IdeaMakers Challenge for an application and business concept that provides 3-D printing of medical equipment parts to rural areas of Kenya.

“[The IdeaMakers Challenge helped me] learn how to present a complex solution in a digestible way to pretty much anybody,” Goewert noted.

“We also learned how to be resourceful, and to not be afraid to ask for help,” added Kijenzi member Akhil Pothana, a senior majoring in information sciences and technology.

Members of team Sender, who won this year’s 3-Day Idea Open Pitch Challenge and the 2017 IdeaMakers Challenge for their software that helps students digitally ask questions in large lecture halls, praised the skills they gained from their participation in Startup Week.

“Getting out of your box is something you need to do,” said Devin Arrigo, a senior majoring in risk management. “Once you pitch a few times, it translates in job interviews.”

Arrigo and his fellow teammates all have secured full-time jobs after graduation and say that this experience helped them shape their careers. Because of their experiences in the Startup Week challenges, they pursued opportunities that intersect with the tech space — something they had not previously considered.

Angela DeMarco, a sophomore majoring in information sciences and technology, also has utilized this experience to advance her career. Her team’s prototype, a tool that integrates human and algorithmic grading capabilities to provide instant student feedback and reduce grader workload in the University Libraries’ digital badge program, is one of five concepts to advance to the final round of the $100,000 Nittany AI Challenge.

“[In the challenge] we were faced with a challenging problem and had to talk through it from design to a working prototype,” said DeMarco. “It’s not something you do in the classroom.”

“It’s a talking point for interviews now,” she added. “Having this experience prepared me for my internship at Microsoft this summer.”

Startup Week originated in 2012 as IST Startup Week and became Penn State Startup Week in 2017, uniting numerous colleges, campuses, and units across the University. Its purpose is to showcase innovation in technology, health, the arts, education, sustainabilit, and global impact that is occurring daily at Penn State. This year’s Startup Week activities took place in 23 venues on campus and featured 35 speakers, with more than half of those speakers being Penn State alumni or current students.

For more information, visit For pictures of this year’s challenges, speeches and reception, click here.

Last Updated April 09, 2018