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Student Entrepreneurs to Showcase Startups at Summer Founders Demo Day

by on August 26, 2015 6:00 AM

Penn State president Eric Barron pledged $30 million toward student entrepreneurship in January, starting the Invent Penn State initiative.

"At Penn State, we recognize that great minds need support," he said. "That idea is at the heart of Penn State’s new $30 million investment in economic development and student career success."

The most tangible result of the initiative thus far is the Summer Founders Program, which describes itself as a "non-equity funding, mentorship, and learning opportunity for young entrepreneurs." The program gave six teams $10,000 each to invest in their company and help them fully devote time to working on their startups over the summer. 

A panel of professionals from the borough, university, and established businesses chose six teams to receive the grants and join the program. Criteria for selection included whether the companies have a positive community impact, how large that impact is, and the drive and motivation of the team members.

The first year -- or at least the first summer -- of the Summer Founders Program is coming to a close, and it will culminate with Demo Day tonight. The teams will present their progress, findings, and goals to community members and potential investors in Atherton Hall's Grandfather Clock Lounge. 

"We are just now completing our first year in operation. We are happy to report that it was a resounding success, exceeding even the organizers’ ambitious expectations," program coordinator Chantal Plank said. "We’ve been truly impressed by the quantity, caliber, and depth of quality that we’ve observed in this year’s entrepreneurs, mentors, and community support."

Here are the six teams that will present their progress and future plans at Demo Day this evening: -- This team, comprised of Mitch Robinson, Spencer McCollough, and Zach Zimbler aims to assist students and young professionals find work. "ResumeRuby is developing tools that allow you to easily create a standout resume, create an amazing cover letter, receive instant interview practice, and more," the team said.

MichelAngelo -- Led by Linggiu Jin, Brennan Cornell, and Robert Chisena, this team is advancing medical science, working on a less painful and less invasive endoscope for patients suffering from gastrointestinal issues. "We are using our engineering knowledge to create a robotic endoscope that will help doctors and surgeons perform procedures in the GI tract more precisely and less invasively, allowing patients with pre-existing conditions receive procedures," the team said.

Mobium Solutions -- This two-man team of Kevin Paroda and Justin Keenan has developed ECHOdrive, an add-on for 3D printers "that lets them print multiple parts out in a row without human intervention." Current printers require someone to remove prints and manually start new ones, while this technology would allow for assembly-line functionality.

UFit Thrive -- Samuel Jackson and Grant Dean created a fitness program specially tailored to those suffering from diabetes. The company has opened a space in Boalsburg and "hopes to change the lives of people suffering from this chronic disease."

Project Vive -- Mary Elizabeth Mculloch went solo with this project, which aims to "create a low-cost solution to overcome non-verbal communication barriers brought on by cerebral palsy and other related disabilities." This technology uses small movements to construct full sentences, advancing the previous communication ability of those who can't speak.

Gastrograph -- Jason Cohen and John Dori teamed up to create Analytical Flavor Systems, which builds machine-learning and artificial intelligence-based sensory tools for the food and beverage industry. "We apply our expertise in sensory science, data mining, and chemical-informatics to leverage human-sensory data for applications in: quality control, flavor profile optimization and product development, production process optimization, demographic targeting, and cognitive marketing," the team said.

The teams are hoping for additional investment opportunities, potentially stemming from the Demo Day. They are also encouraged to apply to Y Combnatory, a seed fund that invests in a large number of startups twice each year. For more information on Demo Day or to RSVP for the event, check out the Demo Day website here.

Zach Berger is the managing editor of He graduated from Penn State University in 2014 with a degree in print journalism. Zach enjoys writing about a variety of topics ranging from football to government, music, and everything in between.
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