YORK, Pa. — Penn State President Eric Barron, Penn State York officials and Erin Casey, co-founder and board member of Working Class, announced the launch of Working Class, a makerspace partnership, to a crowd of more than 100 on Aug. 9 on the stage of the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center at Penn State York. The winners of the 2016-17 Start-Up Challenge, a business pitch competition for students, were also recognized during this celebration of entrepreneurship, leadership, partnerships and innovation. These projects received $50,000 in seed-grant funding from Invent Penn State, an economic development initiative across the Commonwealth.
To view photos from the event, visit the Penn State York Flickr site.
In October 2016, Barron awarded Penn State York $50,000 as a part of the Invent Penn State initiative. Invent Penn State is focused on leveraging Penn State’s research, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit to bring to market needed ideas, products and services. Since 2015, the University has provided funding for 17 innovation hubs in campus communities across Pennsylvania, which provide combinations of startup accelerators, co-working space, makerspaces and pitch competitions.
Penn State York’s innovation hub includes the Working Class Makerspace and a Start-Up (Business) Challenge. Facilitated by The Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies (The Graham Center), Graham students will soon be able to utilize Working Class, a centrally located makerspace in downtown York.
“The ribbon-cutting for the makerspace partnership, Working Class, demonstrates the power of leveraging Penn State’s research, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Barron. “With the dedication of Working Class, we envision a focused effort to generate innovative, commercially viable solutions to address emerging business needs in this region and beyond.”
“Overall, it will provide a space to leverage the intellectual capital of our students, faculty and the surrounding community for the betterment of the area. Our connections to the community and local business, combined with our vision to nurture an innovation mindset, will support a wide range of entrepreneurial ventures,” Barron added.
Working Class, a centrally located makerspace in downtown York, is expected to open to the public in fall 2017 in the Rudy Art Glass building. The facility will provide more than 13,000 square feet of shop space, tools and classes on a membership basis. Working Class is designed for community members to build artisan-style skills to work and develop individual enterprising endeavors. The Penn State project, funded at $25,000, is under the auspices of, and in collaboration with, a community consortium already committed to Working Class.
“The significance of the Invent Penn State grant and partnership with Penn State York for Working Class and for York cannot be overstated,” said Erin Casey, co-founder and board member of Working Class. “An esteemed institution like Penn State choosing to meaningfully partner and support a project like Working Class demonstrates Penn State’s willingness to invest in innovative and impactful educational and entrepreneurial opportunities, as well as in the surrounding community as a whole. The Invent Penn State grant has allowed us to engage Penn State York students in the start-up of this initiative — learning everything from marketing to business development to human-centered design. It has also given us tremendous credibility in the larger community to have such a respected university support our project which is allowing us to start to garner the additional support we need to become operational.”
“The ribbon-cutting for the makerspace partnership, Working Class, demonstrates the power of leveraging Penn State’s research, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit. With the dedication of Working Class, we envision a focused effort to generate innovative, commercially viable solutions to address emerging business needs in this region and beyond.”
— Penn State President Eric Barron
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.”
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.