Penn State staff earns second place in worldwide entrepreneurship competitors

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania – A team of Penn State students and partners from other universities recently took second place in the Creating Shared Value Challenge, an international competition that invited teams of students from around the world to come up with business ideas that promised to advance the common good. The competition was sponsored by the Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Ben Gurion University in Israel.

The runner-up, 42MORO Co, presented an idea for a sensor to help small greenhouse growers in developing countries increase their yields and profits. First place went to a team of two students from Ben-Gurion University, whose startup HearPods brought headphones to the market for hearing aid users.

This marked the second year in a row that Penn State students took part in The Challenge, which began in 2018 and ran virtually in 2020 and 2021. The purpose of the competition, according to the organizers, is to advance entrepreneurship education for students around the world by challenging students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world challenges.

This year’s competition, in which 348 student teams from nine countries apply, called on the participants to present business ideas that promise mutual added value. According to The Challenge website, Create Shared Value is “a broad economic theory that suggests”[…]By actively improving society, companies increase their own competitiveness. ”The participants were asked either to present an idea for a startup that takes“ people, planet and profit ”into account and promotes at least one of the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations, or to make a recommendation to an existing company that would improve corporate sustainability.

“This year’s challenge was all about the opportunities of the pandemic, which has created both enormous challenges and enormous opportunities to achieve social well-being,” said Yosef Shavit, director of the Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “We asked students from around the world to come up with business ideas that create common value, and we were inspired by the ingenuity of the entries.”

Penn State students who participated in The Challenge had the opportunity to compete for recognition in an internal Penn State competition in May 2021. The teams presented business ideas to the faculty juries of the Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship under the heading “Creating Shared Value”. . Two teams took first place together for $ 400 cash prizes: ShambaTek, including Jackson Horigan (mechanical engineering), Dane Nicklaus (engineering and mechanics), Justin DePhillipo (biomedical engineering), and Youngsuk Youn (materials science and technology) ; and 42MORO Co, which included David Moyer (computer science), Eddie Ubri (computer science, math) and Sweetalana Singh (biological sciences). Penn State members from 42MORO Co, along with three other team members from other universities – Nipun Majumdar from the College of New Jersey and Evans Murei and Johanssen Obanda, both from Egerton University in Kenya – then reached the international finals.

The final round of the competition took place virtually on July 15 and included presentations by seven student teams. The winners were determined by a four-person jury, each representing a participating university. Individuals can view a full replay of the final round of the competition on Facebook Watch.

42MORO Co’s sensor promises to help farmers optimize growing conditions such as temperature, humidity, humidity and pH.

In their presentation, 42MORO Co stated that farmers in developing countries often rely on inaccurate guesswork to operate greenhouse crops and when crops fail greenhouses are abandoned, profits are lost and food in the surrounding community becomes scarce. By allowing farmers to optimize growing conditions such as temperature, humidity, humidity and pH, their sensor can help these farms increase their yield and thus benefit the surrounding community. The team made links between their product and several UN Sustainable Development Goals, including zero hunger, decent work and economic growth, and gender equality (since they explained that 70 percent of smallholders in developing countries are women).

“We hope that our technology will spread like wildfire in developing countries so that farmers can sustain their communities and meet the need to double global food production by 2050,” said David Moyer, a member of the 42MORO co-team, in an interview .

The idea for the product came from Penn State’s Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program, Moyer said. Through a HESE 2020 course (which was held virtually due to COVID-19), Moyer familiarized himself with the challenges farmers face in Kenya and also met two of the students who will later become team members of 42MORO Co, Johanssen Obanda and Evans Murei.

42MORO Co members include Penn State students as well as students from universities in Kenya and New Jersey.

In addition to HESE, 42MORO Co members also commend various Penn State faculty and entrepreneurship programs for helping develop their product, including the Intercollege Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ENTI Minor), Happy Valley Launchbox, Happy Valley Capital, and Penn State Development Center for small businesses.

Anne Hoag, who heads the Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship and ENTI Minor and organized Penn State’s participation in The Challenge, praised 42MORO Co for the potential of their product to achieve social well-being.

A headshot by Anne Hoag

Anne Hoag, Director of the Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship and Associate Professor at Bellisario College of Communications

“The student innovators behind 42MORO Co presented a unique and powerful idea to make the world a better place,” said Hoag. “The strength of their technology, their product and their plan lies in their application of the mission of ‘creating shared value’ and problem solving towards specific sustainable development goals. Congratulations to these Penn Staters who have won international recognition in the Creating Shared Value Challenge. I can’t wait to see what they do next. “

With the second place in the Creating Shared Value Challenge, the members of 42MORO Co do not celebrate long. Next up, the team is facing another competition, the Net Impact Food Solutions Accelerator, and developing a prototype for their sensor so they can test it with Kenyan farmers.

“It’s nice to celebrate, but it’s time to step on the accelerator and keep pushing our plans,” said Moyer.

The Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship is part of Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that directs and coordinates university-wide programs and initiatives to support undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about undergraduate education at undergrad.psu.edu.