Though we may all believe our children are brilliant (guilty as charged!), it is sometimes difficult to prove that to the rest of the world. The Conrad Foundation is giving them a chance to prove it — and to get a $10,000 grant to make their ideas come to life.
The annual Spirit of Innovation Challenge is the legacy of Apollo 12 moonwalker Pete Conrad. His early struggles with dyslexia and later entrepreneurial success inspired his widow, Nancy, to memorialize her husband with a living tribute: supporting teens in solving global challenges.
Random Geek Trivia: Who was the third person to walk on the moon? Pete Conrad!
“We believe young people have the skills and the desire to develop solutions to benefit humanity,” stated Nancy Conrad. “By giving them a way to demonstrate their knowledge and access to mentors who can explain the application of that knowledge, we provide context to the content they learn in the classroom. This is the only competition of its kind to combine education, innovation and entrepreneurship, to give students the tools they need to succeed and sustain our knowledge-based economy.”
Here’s how it works: anyone age 13-18 can start a team and submit a one-page proposal by October 24 for an innovative commercial product that that is interesting to them and is “of value to humanity.” Selected semi-finalist teams will get paired with an industry mentor to create a full business plan and promotional video to explain how their innovation will change the world. Finalist teams will head to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in April 2013 for tours, speeches, and a chance to pitch their ideas in person. Winners get $10,000 to help them bring their ideas to life.
Sound too good to be true? I’ve met some of the students, including the winners of the 2010 challenge. Sisters Mikayla and Shannon developed a better food for space travelers, proving that siblings can work together. Their innovative nutrition bar was flown on a space shuttle mission and tested by astronauts in space (verdict: delicious–and no crumbs!). Now the girls are working to get their “Solar Flare Bar” into production.
You can read more about the 2011-2012 year winners in this GeekDad article.