Startup Week Competition winners congratulated by President Barron

The week of virtual entrepreneurial events and challenges culminated with a student recognition reception
Startup Week banner with nittany lion shrine in background
Credit: Penn State

Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC culminated with a celebration of student entrepreneurs and innovators in technology, health, sustainability, the arts, and global impact categories during the virtual student recognition reception on Thursday, March 25.

“Their ideas will make our world safer, easier, faster, better — and maybe even more fun,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “These students are on their way to being future leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation, whether their startups succeed, or they go on to work for other companies, or choose to serve their communities.”

Eight entrepreneurial student competitions and challenges were hosted as part of Startup Week. Through close collaboration with existing University programs, community partners and Invent Penn State, events throughout the week also introduced participants to the innovation ecosystem and the abundant resources at Penn State and in its surrounding campus communities.

The virtual student recognition reception was hosted by Penn State junior and Schreyer Honors College student Leonardo Girlando. Majoring in finance and Chinese, Girlando is president of Happy Valley Capital and the Global China Connection Penn State Chapter, in addition to being part of the Barron’s in Education Ambassador program.

Below is a list of student competition and challenge winners that were honored by President Barron during the virtual student recognition reception, as well as additional competitions still to be completed.

  • Penn State Mont Alto LaunchBox LION Tank Pitch Competition ($3,000 in total prizes): Provides top teams startup funding, access to the Mont Alto LaunchBox and additional services to help them go to market.

Winners: Table Rock Markets, an e-commerce platform that connects consumers to local farmers, received 1st place and a $1,500 microgrant.

  • Start.Me.Up Mini Challenge ($900 in total prizes): Provides students opportunities to work with real companies on real projects and build their resume.

Winner: Krista Chen, a freshman studying advertising in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, created a themed donor campaign designed to inspire target donors and sample campaign posts for Instagram and Facebook for the Student Farm at Penn State.

Winner: SLCKR, which provides premium barber offerings specifically catered to the modern barber.

  • Bardusch Family IdeaMakers Challenge (prize is a fully paid trip to an entrepreneurship conference or to visit a well-known startup company): The Bardusch family recently made a gift to establish the Bardusch Family IdeaMakers Challenge Endowment at the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST). The challenge is a competition where students receive mentoring from faculty, industry leaders and experienced entrepreneurs to develop their idea pitching skills for a chance to win prizes that advance their professional network.

Winner: Eclaireur, a website designed to help ballet dancers find training programs and auditions to have a better chance at a successful career.

  • VenturePointe "What's your Big Idea?" Challenge sponsored by Penn State Shenango’s VenturePointe Incubator, the e-Center at LindenPointe and Penn Northwest Development Corporation ($500 in total prizes): A challenge where participants submit their ideas for a new or improved product, or a service for-profit business or nonprofit organization.

Finalists: Note on the Go, which is an interactive online agenda app for students to see all upcoming assignments and due dates, and IllumiLIT, a glow-in-the-dark ink that allows a book to be read anywhere in the dark without disturbing others.

Winner: Up-End Ceramics, which provides consumers with affordable, well-designed, and well-crafted handmade ceramic wares.

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

Co-Winner: The Mental Health Project, a tool for mental health professionals to provide faster diagnostics, treatment, and identification of patients. This was built in partnership with IBM Watson and faculty from the Penn State College of Medicine.

Co-Winner: Abundant Connections, a solution to reduce food waste and insecurity by providing food waste producers and the food insecure an AI-based web application to connect and conduct donations of food that would otherwise perish. Abundant Connections was built with the help and guidance from Penn State's Lion's Pantry.

  • HackPSU sponsored by the College of Engineering School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: Penn State's student-run hackathon, where participants can learn to code or compete to build something from scratch.

Winner: Styra, a Chrome extension that helps intelligently and drastically increase personal productivity when surfing the internet while taking care of health and well-being.

  • Ag Springboard Competition, sponsored by the College of Agricultural Sciences ($10,000 in total prizes): Teams of students pitch ideas for a new business or nonprofit in food, energy, ecosystems, bioproducts, community development or sustainability. Five finalist teams will present their final pitches on Friday, April 9, as they compete for a $7,500 grand prize and a $2,500 second prize.
  • Inc.U Competition ($30,000 in total prizes): This annual competition is managed by PennTAP and aims to fund new undergraduate Penn State student companies. Having six finalist teams, the Inc.U Competition will conclude on Saturday, April 10 with the taping of “The Investment 2021” WPSU television show, which is a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition. Winners are awarded a share of a no-equity required $30,000 award pool.
  • Summer Founders program ($15,000 grants per startup): The Summer Founders program, a signature program of Invent Penn State, 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. This year’s applicants hailed from eight campuses and four colleges, as well as the graduate school. Five startup teams were selected to participate in this summer-long program.

The full student recognition reception recording can be viewed here.

About Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC

An integral part of the broader Invent Penn State initiative, Startup Week 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.

For more information on Startup Week, visit