Though a large body of water separates Penn State students from Africa, some students have had the chance to make an impact of the lives of rural African farmers.
Four students from the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship program traveled to the Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship Summit held in Ohio State University’s Mershon Auditorium on Saturday.
The students — Arianna De Reus, Curtis Eckard, Jerrel Gilliam and Anthony Magliozzi — competed in APTE’s business plan competition and placed second, earning the HESE program $2,000.
The students delivered a 10-minute pitch on Friday about the HESE greenhouse project, which created affordable greenhouses to supply small rural farmers in East Africa with a way to grow food all year round.
After their pitch and a 10-minute question and answer session, the team was informed that it had been selected for the top three in the business plan competition.
On Saturday, the team presented a three-minute pitch to the entire conference of over 1,000 people, said De Reus (sophomore-community, environment and development).
It was difficult for the team to cut down its pitch, but in their three-minute pitch, team members talked about the problem of food and security in Africa, De Reus said. Then they discussed how this problem affects 170 million small-scale farmers and how their greenhouse project can help solve the problem, she said.
Because the pitch on Saturday was to the entire conference, it was designed to grab the interest of the audience so members would ask the HESE students questions at their table after the presentation, said Eckard (junior-supply chain management).
The greenhouse technology has been licensed to a manufacturer, Mavuuno Greenhouses in Kenya, but with the award from APTE, HESE will be able to create a similar model in West Africa, she said.
Because HESE’s greenhouse project is for profit, it does not have to rely on funding. People’s livelihoods depend on these greenhouses, said Magliozzi (sophomore-energy engineering).
Aside from the second place prize from the business competition, the team had an opportunity to network. Getting exposure for HESE is something the team feels passionately about, said Gilliam (junior-history and philosophy).
In addition, the HESE students were the only undergraduates in the top three of the business competition, which Gilliam said he thought was “cool.”
And Eckard said overall he has enjoyed his experience thus far with HESE.
“There is no better place to spend my time [than in HESE]. HESE can present people with a phenomenal chance to improve their lives,” Eckard said.
For more information on HESE’s greenhouse project: collegian.psu.edu/archive/2013/01/30/HESE_program_to_showcase_greenhouses_in_March_and_April.aspx.