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Harrisburg, PA – The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), powered by Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (HU), has officially wrapped up the most successful launchU competition to date. This is the fourth year for the Shark Tank-inspired startup pitch competition, featuring thoughtful inventions and business models envisioned by high school and university teams from across the globe.

The winners were officially announced following the final pitch competition on Thursday, May 16, 2024. HU President, Eric Darr, PhD, delivered opening remarks to kick off the event, noting HU’s founding commitment to entrepreneurship by saying, “Harrisburg University’s mission statement actually connects the business of education with economic development and the creation of new businesses. We are mission-driven to support founders and innovation in a way that creates economic benefit for all of us. It’s a very different dynamic than many of our colleagues in higher education.”

Dr. Darr continued, “We try to connect our founders with faculty members who are leading researchers in their areas of specialty. We also connect our founders with other founders. At HU, the support for founders and innovation is part and parcel with everything we do – and it’s critical to the success of the university and the region we live in.”

Annually, launchU participants have the opportunity to bring their business idea to life with the help of HU faculty and CIE staff and mentors. First, participants learn the basics of entrepreneurship as they refine their idea and receive invaluable guidance from business veterans. Then, they pitch their idea at a capstone competition showcase. Three winners are selected by a formal judging committee and awarded prizes, with one grand-prize winner selected to incubate their business idea at the Harrisburg University Innovation Lab.

“launchU started as an experiment to see how we could encourage entrepreneurial thinking and problem-solving among the student population in Central Pennsylvania,” said Jay Jayamohan, Executive Director of the CIE. “Since then, it has been growing by leaps and bounds. We now receive applications from all over the world, including Asia and South America, and from Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Cornell, and Yale.”

CIE received more than 50 applications in 2024 and then narrowed down the slate to these 10 finalists:

High Schools

  • Central Dauphin East High School
  • Hempfield High School
  • International School of Panama
  • Lower Dauphin High School
  • Trinity High School

Colleges / Universities

  • Africa Nazarene University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Cornell University
  • Drexel University
  • Harvard University

After an exciting pitch expo, held digitally on Thursday, May 16, the panel of judges announced three winners along with a fan favorite selected by attendees.

2024 Fan Favorite: International School of Panama

VOTA Panama is a groundbreaking app designed to combat corruption and empower voters in Panama by providing comprehensive information on candidates, political parties, and government structures. By offering interactive maps, candidate profiles, and educational resources, VOTA Panama aims to engage underprivileged youth and other demographics to make informed electoral decisions. With a non-profit business model, crowdfunding initiatives, and potential partnerships with local organizations and the electoral tribunal, VOTA Panama seeks to catalyze positive change, foster transparency, and strengthen democracy in Panama and beyond.

2024 Best High School: Trinity High School

KOSI is a lifestyle app that provides users the ability to create outfits anytime, anywhere. Users will be able to upload their entire wardrobe into a virtual closet that can be swiped onto a digital avatar of themselves. The digital avatar will be fully customizable and will be proportional to the user to provide them with an accurate display of their outfit and how it will look on them.

Best College/University: Africa Nazarene University

Fiber Nasi is an innovative materials science company that is redefining the materials of the future by upcycling sustainable pineapple pulp waste into leather that is vegan, cruelty-free, and sustainable.

Best Overall: Harvard University

MabLab is building five-in-one test strips to detect the five deadliest lacing agents in recreational drugs: fentanyl, methamphetamine, benzodiazepine, xylazine, and methadone. In response to one of our close peers who overdosed because of laced drugs, our team is dedicated to delivering a pre-exposure solution that provides users the dignity to know if they would be consuming lethal substances. Our test can deliver a result with unparalleled accuracy in under three minutes, potentially saving more than one hundred thousand lives every single year.

This is an exciting time for Harrisburg University and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Earlier in the year, the CIE was named a finalist in the “Programs” category of the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal Nonprofit Innovation Awards. According to CPBJ: “The Programs category recognizes innovative programming that has resulted in the organization’s increased success and achievement of their mission.” Specifically, it recognizes game-changing efforts by local 501(c)(3) organizations to better serve their constituents. launchU’s mission of empowering underserved communities and supporting multicultural founders was the focus of CIE’s award nomination.

Congratulations to each of the award winners! Harrisburg University thanks each of the high school and university teams that applied to join launchU in 2024, and we congratulate each of the finalists who helped make this the most successful year so far for launchU. Here’s to an even more impactful 2025!

ABOUT HARRISBURG UNIVERSITY

Harrisburg University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and is a private, nonprofit university offering bachelor’s and graduate degree programs in the fields of science, technology, and mathematics. For additional information about the University’s affordable, demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, please call 717-901-5146 or email Connect@HarrisburgU.edu. Stay updated by following Harrisburg University on XLinkedInInstagram, and Facebook.