Fayette LaunchBox hosts Shark Tank competition for high school students

Justin Aglio presents a workshop at Fayette LaunchBox Shark Tank

Justin Aglio, executive director of the Readiness Institute at Penn State, offered a workshop to high school students for Fayette LaunchBox's Shark Tank.

Credit: Penn State

LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — Fayette LaunchBox powered by Penn State hosted its first-ever High School Shark Tank event on Dec. 6.

The event, which is modeled after the popular reality show, brought together more than 70 local students from Uniontown Area High School, Geibel Catholic High School and Laurel Highlands High School to celebrate entrepreneurialism.

To prepare students for the experience, Justin Aglio, executive director of Penn State’s Readiness Institute, provided a workshop about the value of entrepreneurship. The crowd was also treated to a video message from Mark Cuban, cast member of ABC’s Shark Tank, who offered tips for a winning pitch.

Students were then divided into eight teams, which each prepared and presented an elevator pitch for a proposed product or service. Four winning teams were awarded cash prizes, and an additional award was presented to the pitch that most prioritized sustainability.

“We’re looking forward to growing this event for next year,” said Rachel Kaplan, assistant teaching professor of corporate communication, who co-directs the Fayette LaunchBox with Barbara Koffler, director of outreach and continuing education.

The Fayette LaunchBox is a signature program of Invent Penn State, a $30 million initiative launched in 2015 by former Penn State President Eric Barron to spur economic development, job creation and student career success. Invent Penn State provided seed grant funding to start 21 campus-affiliated innovation spaces in downtowns across the Commonwealth.

Fayette LaunchBox is a no-cost business accelerator designed to help regional entrepreneurs and University affiliates develop their ideas into commercially viable products and services. The facility is a joint venture between Penn State and the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council.

2022 High School Shark Tank winners:

  • First Place: Tanner Bruzda, Matt Schwertfeger and Ryan Rockwell of Laurel Highlands High School for “Custom Cornhole” ($500)
  • Second Place (Tie): Aiden Holt, Caleb Karey and Tony Startore of Geibel Catholic High School for “Personal Elderly Technology Service” ($400)
  • Second Place (Tie): Molly Wisilosky, Ethan Butter, Joshua Steigner, Giavanna Amoroso, Shawn Maggert and Sutton Kistler of Laurel Highlands High School for “Win-Win Sports Bin” ($400)
  • Third Place: Luke Kalivoda, Jenna Bucheit, Seth Dolan and Maddie Waggert of Geibel Catholic High School for “Pop-Up Ice Rink” ($300)
  • Sustainability Award: Krista Thorpe of Uniontown Area High School for “Mean Bean Cafe” ($100.00)

To learn more, visit https://fayette.psu.edu/launchbox. To request information about Fayette LaunchBox, email [email protected] or call 724-437-7913.