Penn Staters, Dominican Republic students collaborate through Hazleton LaunchBox

Hazleton LaunchBox supported by Pasco L. Schiavo, Esq


Credit: Penn State

HAZLETON, Pa. – They may have been over 1,500 miles apart, but students from Penn State and Universidad Central del Este (UCE) in the Dominican Republic didn’t let distance get in the way of a good idea.

More than two dozen students learned how to develop and refine business ideas during the Idea Design Lab, a collaborative program hosted during Global Entrepreneurship Week in November by the Hazleton LaunchBox supported by Pasco L. Schiavo, Esq.

The course, which included students from Penn State Hazleton, Penn State Abington and UCE, was held synchronously over Zoom in three, two-hour sessions and challenged participants to expand their critical thinking skills through brainstorming and other interactive exercises.

Like several programs offered by the LaunchBox, the course was taught both in English and Spanish.

While planning the course, program instructors William Andahazy and Fermin Diaz of the Hazleton LaunchBox determined UCE students’ grasp of English was strong enough that the course could be presented in English with Diaz translating to Spanish as needed.

“We maintained proactive communication with UCE and had a conversation in the (Zoom) chats with the students to make sure they understood,” Diaz said. “After each session, we had a discussion to see if we should pivot in any way.”

Ryan Wingerter, a sophomore majoring in business at Penn State Hazleton, said the transitions between English and Spanish made for more engaging discussion.

“Working with people who speak different languages is a pleasure and it makes me feel like better ideas are distributed,” Wingerter said.

Wingerter also appreciated how some of the exercises in the course were built around students’ own interests.

“We did an activity that focused on my interest in sports and brainstormed how we could make a business out of it,” he said. “I thought it was really awesome and will help me in future situations.”

Another exercise invited students to create a list of items they would bring with them if they were shipwrecked on an island, Andahazy said. They were then encouraged to discuss their choices to see if different viewpoints or groupthink changed their minds.

“The attitude in which we approach problems is as important as the intellectual ability to solve them,” Andahazy said, noting that the exercise promoted leadership, teamwork and negotiation skills.

During the third and final session, Lisa Weaver of the Berks LaunchBox and instructors from UCE focused on social entrepreneurship and its impact on communities. 

“The Idea Design Lab is a reminder that teamwork and collaboration know no boundaries,” said Director of Continuing Education and Hazleton LaunchBox Debra Conway. “We look forward to continuing to build relationships with aspiring entrepreneurs in the Hazleton community and beyond.”

The LaunchBox’s next Idea Design Lab, beginning Tuesday, Jan. 19, will be open to members of the community. Offered in English or Spanish, the three-week program will provide aspiring entrepreneurs the tools to develop new business ideas and identify the next steps of the start-up process.

The Idea Design Lab will be followed by the Idea Test Lab, a four-week program designed to help entrepreneurs identify their unique business offerings, recognize customer problems, reach additional customers and more. The program, also offered in English or Spanish, is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Feb. 23. 

To learn more or for information on additional resources at the Hazleton LaunchBox, visit

For more information on the LaunchBox, email Entrepreneurship Education Coordinator William Andahazy at [email protected] or Entrepreneurial Facilitator Fermin Diaz at [email protected] or call 570-450-3135.

About Hazleton LaunchBox: 

Located at 13 W. Broad St. in Hazleton, the Hazleton LaunchBox is a no-cost startup accelerator and co-working space designed to provide early-stage startup companies with the support and resources needed to build a sustainable business and a viable plan for growth. 

The LaunchBox is a signature program of the Invent Penn State Initiative, a commonwealth-wide system to spur economic development, job creation, and student career success. The initiative, launched by Penn State President Eric Barron in 2015, redefines the University’s land-grant mission to include entrepreneurship and innovation programs, including the development of “innovation hubs” in Penn State Commonwealth Campus communities across the state. 

Invent Penn State blends entrepreneurship-focused academic programs, business startup training and incubation, funding for commercialization, and University-community collaborations to facilitate the process of turning ideas into viable products and services.