Success Story

  • Table Rock Markets co-founder stands next to President Barron

President Barron honors Startup Week powered by PNC student competition winners

Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC culminated with a celebration of student innovation and entrepreneurship at the Student Recognition and Networking Reception, which took place on Thursday, April 7 at the Penn State Innovation Hub. During the reception, Penn State President Eric Barron congratulated student winners and finalists of Startup Week competitions.

“We celebrate the winning student entrepreneurs and changemakers who have met with mentors, practiced their pitches, and showcased their ideas to expert judges and an audience of their peers,” President Barron said during the reception. “Your efforts are an inspiration and very admirable.”

Winners and finalists from eight competitions were honored during the Student Recognition and Networking Reception, in addition to the student startup teams selected for the 2022 Summer Founders program. Below are Startup Week competition and challenge winners and finalists honored during the reception:

  • Accelerator Rap Challenge ($3,500 in prizes): A national contest hosted by the Cape at Penn State that addresses the lack of diversity in innovative entrepreneurship by having teams create a short, School House Rock-style animated music video that can help 8-12-year-olds understand innovative, entrepreneurial work.

Winner: Kawaii Society Animation

Winner ($7,500): Flour Power, a line of food products to improve the human microbiome and gut health.

  • Arts Business Idea Competition, produced by the College of Arts & Architecture’s Arts Entrepreneurship program ($10,000 in total prizes): Asks undergraduate and graduate students in any major to present an arts-based business plan that could earn entrants up to $5,000 to develop the concept.

Winner ($5,000): Eartrainer, which provides music theory and ear training instructors with tools to spend more time teaching and less time grading and managing student assignments.

  • Bardusch Family IdeaMakers Challenge: During this competition, students receive mentoring from faculty, industry leaders and experienced entrepreneurs to develop idea-pitching skills for a chance to win prizes that advance their ideas and professional networks.

Winner: WeAre Living, a solution offering an all-in-one marketplace for tenants to find housing, roommates, resolve tenant disputes, exchange leases and learn about the housing process.

  • Happy Valley Capital Pitch Competition, hosted in partnership with Innoblue and sponsored by the Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Engineering Entrepreneurship program ($25,000 in prizes): Provides top teams with access to Happy Valley VC’s Startup Advisory Program, which includes pitch deck support, business-focused office hours with key startup support programs, a curated online library of resources to build startups, as well as dedicated mentors from the industry.

Winner ($10,000): Table Rock Markets, an automated e-commerce platform designed for farmers, helping keep small farms in business by increasing their sales and profitability by leveraging resources in the digital world.

Winning teams ($15,000 each): CarToCamp, a designer and manufacturer of a custom-fit sleeping platform for vehicles to enable the “van life” experience with room for storage, and MarRosa’s Old World Cuisine, which offers marinara sauce, vodka sauce and tomato basil sauce all made with imported Italian tomatoes.

  • Nittany AI Challenge ($50,000 in prizes): Student teams with diverse talents build working solutions to improve the world in the fields of health, humanitarianism, the environment and education.

Top three teams: iLenz, a mobile app that leverages historic retina records and basic smartphone hardware to provide early detection and regular monitoring of eye diseases at home without the need for medical expertise; AudioHUD, a heads-up display designed for the deaf and hard of hearing community, enhancing situational awareness in virtual and real-world environments by providing visual substitutes to sound cues; and AquaSafe, which monitors water points for water quantity and quality, helping people to more reliably determine when safe water is available and access aid if it is not.

Winner ($1,500): CarToCamp, a designer and manufacturer of a custom-fit sleeping platform for vehicles to enable the “van life” experience with room for storage.

Summer Founders program student startup teams were also honored during the Student Recognition and Networking Reception. The Summer Founders program is a 13-week entrepreneurial bootcamp that provides Penn State students with $15,000 grants to work full-time on their startup, social good, or nonprofit idea during the summer. Six student startups with representation across three different campuses plus the Graduate School at Penn State have been selected into this year’s program.

“I’ve personally seen students who have never considered starting a business feel empowered to try,” said Lee Erickson, Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization associate director of economic development and student programs. “For the students who don’t want to go down the entrepreneurial path, they’ve been exposed to entrepreneurial thinking that is now viewed by employers as a critical skill. The vision to reinvent the land grant university is being discussed at the national level and universities are coming here to benchmark what’s happening at Penn State for their own institutions.”

Visit the Invent Penn State YouTube channel to watch the entire Student Recognition and Networking Reception.

About Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC

An integral part of the broader Invent Penn State initiative, Startup Week powered by PNC is a University-wide event that connects students with innovative alumni and pioneers who are achieving success in a variety of industries and disciplines. Throughout the week, students discover, explore, experience and celebrate entrepreneurship.