Startup Week 2019 celebration honors student changemakers and entrepreneurs

April 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On April 4 at Pegula Ice Arena, Penn State Startup Week culminated with a celebration of student entrepreneurs and innovators in technology, health, the arts, education, sustainability and global impact.

“These students are on their way to being future leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Neil Sharkey, Penn State vice president for Research. “Their ideas will make our world safer, easier, faster, better, and maybe even more fun.”

Sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the Student Recognition and Networking Reception honored student teams who placed or advanced in 16 challenges and competitions during Startup Week and throughout the academic year. Startup Week gave teams the opportunity to showcase their ideas, receive mentorship, and network with fellow student entrepreneurs, corporate sponsors, and University faculty and administrators. Many winners received cash prizes. A full list of competitions, prizes and winners, is available here.

“It’s a pleasure to be among such an enterprising group of Penn Staters,” Penn State President Eric Barron told the crowd. “This week has shown what’s possible when Penn State alumni, students and professionals put their innovative ideas to work. The Startup Week presentations spanned disciplines from across the University and provided advice and ideas for the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Winning student teams showcased their ideas and spoke passionately about their experiences during the week and over the school year.

“Being able to come to an event like this and be recognized is really rewarding,” said Amy Estes, a Penn State senior in the College of Nursing. “It’s great to know that people recognize the innovations and ideas we’re having as students and that they do want to help us progress.”

Estes’ team won the mHealth Challenge for its idea, Pediatric Cub Companion, an app to control a Bluetooth speaker inside a stuffed bear, which communicates with children about the treatment they are receiving for various health issues.

Other students highlighted how their experiences during Penn State Startup Week will benefit them in their professional career — even if they don’t intend to start a company now.

“When you graduate and go into the workforce, many people are underprepared, so it’s great just being here to get experience for the future,” said Krista Smith, a Penn State sophomore in the Donald P. Bellesario College of Communications. Smith's team won the 3-Day Sustainability Mini-Challenge, which encouraged students to envision innovative solutions to reduce waste in the HUB at Penn State.

Individuals who participated in all three nights of the challenge earned an IBM Enterprise Design Thinking Practitioners Badge. Smith’s team proposed a recycling system that reduces confusion about recycling and incentivizes recycling in the HUB.

Startup Week also offered plenty of opportunities for students to network with each other and with University administrators.

“There are all kinds of people, whether it’s on the tech side or the business side or even the academic side, that you get exposure to,” said Austin Gongora, a Penn State senior studying data science in the College of Information Science and Technology. “It’s a good testing ground.”

Austin’s team, AIODA, placed second in phase two of the Nittany AI Challenge for their idea to use artificial intelligence to improve how students find answers to advising questions.

About Penn State Startup Week

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 the innovation in technology, health, the arts, education, sustainability and global impact that is occurring daily at Penn State. This year’s Startup Week took place April 1-5 in 45 venues in eight colleges and on 11 campuses, and featured 76 speakers, with half of those speakers being Penn State alumni or current students. To find out more, visit

Last Updated September 04, 2020