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What began as an experiment in 2020 involving just a few students is now a global innovation sensation. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is calling for high-school and college teams to enter its 2024 launchU startup challenge competition.

Now in its fifth year, launchU is an annual competitive event where students flesh out and refine their business idea alongside seasoned mentors, including Harrisburg University faculty and CIE staff and founders. Participants learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship from individuals who have lived the startup journey – and then they will have the chance to pitch their business concept in a capstone competition showcase. The launchU experience culminates in a Shark Tank-style startup pitch competition, tailor-made for undergraduates and high-school students.

Think of launchU 2024 as a gateway for students to turn their groundbreaking ideas into a reality. Out of a pool of exceptional applicants, the top eight ideas are selected, and with the guidance of seasoned business mentors, the finalists embark on a transformative journey. Over five intensive weeks, they craft investment summaries and pitch presentations that are bound to captivate the world.

Students have the chance to compete for substantial prize money and the coveted opportunity to secure seed investment. With cash prizes exceeding $5,000, these are real-world rewards that can kickstart entrepreneurial journeys.

On Grand Finale day, students take center stage to pitch their dreams in front of a distinguished panel of judges, renowned entrepreneurs, and seasoned investors. The stage is set for them to win not just cash prizes but also the prestige of being part of an international phenomenon. Several past participants have turned their dreams into thriving businesses through the seed investments they received. The panel of judges will choose the Best High-School Team, the Best College Team, and the Best Overall Team.

Here are the winners from last year’s Grand Finale:

Best Overall – $3,000 – Simbiso Maphosa (Bucknell University) – “PrimeAir”

PRIMEMed Solutions is an innovation-driven, customer-focused medical device company with the mission to provide health solutions to patients with chronic diseases in underserved communities across the world. The company strives to improve access to life-saving medical technologies in low-resource regions. Maphosa will have the opportunity to incubate their business idea in the CIE’s Entrepreneurship Center.

Best College – $1,500 – Ethan Kopf, Amay Tewari, Kaci Xie (Yale University) – “Cimu”

Cimu helps online, middle-market fashion retailers reduce returns by connecting consumers with easy and accessible clothing alterations. By increasing clothing utilization and decreasing clothing waste, the company is working toward its mission of creating a world where no clothes end up in landfills.

Best High School – $1,500 – Aiden Beiler (Hempfield Senior High School) – “Garden Snap”

Garden Snap offers a unique solution for urban gardening with a modular garden system that features interlocking walls and corners. Customers can personalize their own garden by building it in any shape or size, and by selecting different attachments such as composters, rain barrels, or protective fences. With this innovative product, anyone can enjoy the benefits of growing their own fresh produce in limited spaces.

When Is launchU and How Do I Apply?

Do you have an idea for a product, service, or business model? Are you a high-school student or an undergraduate college student? If so, this is your moment. HU and the CIE invite you to take part in this world-class startup challenge. Here’s everything you need to know:

  • When is launchU? The application deadline is March 8, 2024. The competition finale will be held virtually on May 16, 2024.
  • Who can apply? This competition is open to all undergraduate college and high-school students.
  • How do I apply? Visit this link to apply for launchU 2024.

If you’re ready to launch your idea from the realm of ideas and turn it into a reality, read the launchU competition rules here and then apply to launchU today.

launchU is for the creators who dream of bringing life-affirming inventions or impactful new services to the community and the world. Applying for launchU costs nothing, but the lessons learned are priceless – and so is the chance to pitch your idea to seasoned veterans who’ve lived your journey and stood where you now stand.

This is the start of great things! The launchU entry deadline is March 8, 2024, so visit the websitecheck out the official rules, and then apply today to launch your dreams.


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 Stay updated by following Harrisburg University on XLinkedInInstagram, and Facebook.