Future plans at Working Class include Graham Center students working with the company and testing out their new ideas, York campus engineering students building prototypes on-site, and employees of local companies working alongside student entrepreneurs to learn new and innovative methods for solving problems.
“Start-Up Challenge and our partnership with the makerspace, Working Class, integrate well as true campus-community initiatives,” said Jody Keller, executive-in-residence at The Graham Center. “We will be supporting the community consortium committed to economic development in York by investing in equipment for Working Class that will facilitate the use of the makerspace by Penn State York faculty to augment instruction.”
Penn State York Student Start-Up Challenge
The seed grant also funded the Start-Up Challenge, a business pitch competition. The first Start-Up Challenge was an undergraduate competition, where entrepreneurial teams took their ideas from the concept phase through a feasibility study and market analysis to prototypes. Undergraduate students across all programs at Penn State York, which included any active Graham Center students, were invited to participate. All teams had faculty and corporate advisers.
Eight teams submitted proposals to the Start-Up Challenge in January 2017. Students then followed a rigorous schedule to complete a variety of startup milestones that included market research, customer discovery, and regularly scheduled startup cohort meetings.
Six teams made it to the final “Shark Tank-type” competition in April; three received awards. Home Solutions was named The Graham Center Innovator and won the top prize of $2,000 to continue to develop their product. Second place went to Sharp Vision, and third place went to Creaventor, each of which were awarded $1,000 for further product development.
Home Solutions uses Near Field Communication technology to make using smart devices easier and more convenient. With the push of a button, users can control all their devices, such as the Phillips Hue lights, Nest thermostats, security systems, and door locks.
Sharp Vision developed blue light filtering contact lenses, designed to help reduce the harmful effects of blue light emitted from everyday electronics and LED lights.
Creaventor designed heated jackets that use an app to maintain temperature of embedded heating pads to charge cellphones and other electronics.
The Start-Up Challenge is sponsored by The Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies at Penn State York, made possible by a generous gift from York business entrepreneur Donald Graham, chairman and founder of The Graham Group. David W. Chown, chancellor at Penn State York, and others, recognized and thanked Graham during the event.
“The Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies is a pride point for Penn State York. The center is an ever-evolving focal point of opportunity for student engagement, challenge and development,” said Chown. “Mr. Don Graham, who made The Graham Center possible, has guided us on our journey with his vision and his invaluable mentorship of the Graham Fellows.”
To learn more about The Graham Center, visit york.psu.edu/grahamcenter. For more information about Working Class, visit www.workingclassyork.com.
Invent Penn State is a Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation, and student career success. Invent Penn State blends entrepreneurship-focused academic programs, business startup training and incubation, funding for commercialization, and University-community collaborations to facilitate the challenging process of turning research discoveries into valuable products and services that can benefit Pennsylvanians and humankind. Learn more at invent.psu.edu.