This is the Year of Innovation at Penn, and the student-rub club for technological innovation, Weiss Tech House, is working hard to ensure that students truly have the chance to innovate.
One hundred students from across Penn’s schools are selected through an application to attend the full-day conference that featured speaker events and networking opportunities. WTH Director Anne Stamer estimated that attendance is split 50-50 between graduate and undergraduate students.
“We wanted to have something available that brought innovators together at all levels, undergraduate and graduate,” Stamer said. “We really look for students who are delving into innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Engineering graduate student Jamila Hoque attended the conference to network and to gain a better understanding of innovation in science.
“Bridging entrepreneurship with science for me is exactly the path I’m towards in my career,” Hoque said. “I’m interested in potentially working in a startup someday.”
The conference began with keynote speaker Kathy Crothall, a 1971 Engineering graduate who founded three companies and is currently CEO of a fourth, called Aspire Bariatrics. Crothall earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at Penn, and her career since has centered around manufacturing lasers. In her presentation “An Entrepreneur’s (and Investor’s) Perspective on Start-Ups,” she spoke extensively about the importance of learning from one’s mistakes as an entrepreneur.
“I haven’t been involved with a company that hasn’t had extensive problems,” Crothall said. “It’s through those mistakes that I’ve learned the most.”
Also on the schedule were sessions led by 10 other speakers, including three other Penn alumni, and a networking session.
WTH works year-round with students looking to begin their own startups, and organizers said the Penn Innovation Conference is just the first of many ways to support students looking to start their own companies.
“I just think it’s a really exciting conference for students to really immerse themselves in a couple hour period around entrepreneurship and innovation,” Stamer said.
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