Blue and White Chips Wins $7,500 Ag Springboard First Place

Posted: April 15, 2016

Comic book superheroes for STEAM science wins second place and $2,500
Deanna Spaniel (left-center) and Ben Nason (right-center), first-place winners of Ag Springboard for Blue and White Chips, with Earl Harbaugh (far left) and Dean Richard Roush (far right).

Deanna Spaniel (left-center) and Ben Nason (right-center), first-place winners of Ag Springboard for Blue and White Chips, with Earl Harbaugh (far left) and Dean Richard Roush (far right).

Blue and White Chips, a pair of College of Agricultural Sciences student entrepreneurs who make and market naturally colorful blue and white potato chips to Penn State fans, won $7,500 and first place at the Ag Springboard student business pitch contest Thursday.

SySTEAMic, a team of five doctoral candidates who envision using diverse comic book characters to promote STEAM — agriculture and STEM — sciences, especially among women and minorities, won the second place prize and $2,500.

See video profiles of both teams below.

Six finalist teams pitched before a panel of judges throughout Thursday in the fifth-annual Ag Springboard contest to inspire new student enterprises in the agriculture sciences. Video profiles of all six finalist teams can be found on the E&I home page.

The competition is a signature event of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program at the College of Agricultural Sciences, which helps researchers and students grow their ideas into new ventures that can create economic opportunities and jobs.

The win re-affirms all the hard work that’s gone into creating the Blue and White potato chip business, said Deanna Spaniel, a junior agriculture business major, who started the company with partner Ben Nason, a senior horticulture major.

During the team's pitch before judges, Spaniel described many days of getting on the road at 5 a.m. for the three-hour drive to a partner potato chip facility in York, Pennsylvania, to supervise production of a batch of chips for a few hours, then driving back to Penn State to attend classes in the afternoon.

Nason said he didn’t quite believe the announcement at first, after previous disappointments. The team competed but did not place in Ag Springboard 2015.

The pair took on the project after learning about potato varieties that produce spuds in a range of colors — except green — from Vegetable Crop Professor Bill Lamont. They experimented with processing until they were able to create a specialty mix of blue chips made from Purple Majesty potatoes with white chips, then marketed the combo to Penn State fans.

They plan to produce and market various color combinations to other fans as a way to enjoy their school colors.

Second-place winner SySTEAMic Action envisions a cast of comic book characters, curriculum, and other learning tools to promote careers and teach concepts in science, technology, engineering, agriculture and math. The comic book superheroes and stories will teach key STEAM concepts and provide role models.

The announcement was “beautiful” and a “sense of accomplishment” said Jasmine Dillon, member of SySTEAMic Action and a third-year Ph.D. student in animal science.

Kayla Allyne Echols, a second-year Ph.D. student in plant biology, said it was nice that the competition offered a platform for the team to be champions for under-represented groups.

Each team must pitch concepts in the ag sciences categories: sustainability, food, energy, ecosystems, bioproducts and community development. Each team must include one member who is a student in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Earl Harbaugh, whose donation created the E&I Program, congratulated all the student teams who participated in the competition. In its five years, 95 student teams and 264 students have competed.

“We continue to be amazed at the leadership you’ve demonstrated and the growth,” said Harbaugh. “Don’t ever give up,” Harbaugh told the student teams.

Watch the Blue and White Chips story:

Team Blue & White Chips ~ Ag Springboard 2016 Finalist from Lisa Duchene on Vimeo.

 Watch SySTEAMic Action's story:

Team SySTEMic Action ~ Ag Springboard 2016 from Lisa Duchene on Vimeo.