New Space and Tech

Conrad Foundation Global Innovation Summit

By Keith Cowing
April 16, 2013
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Conrad Foundation Global Innovation Summit

Four teams of high school students received top honors at the 2013 Innovation Summit, the final round of competition for the 2012-2013 Spirit of Innovation Challenge. Their efforts to create a product or service to benefit humanity earned winning teams a total of more than $50,000 in cash prizes and awards. The Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Challenge celebrates the life and entrepreneurial spirit of astronaut Pete Conrad, third man to walk on the Moon. Presented by Lockheed Martin and Battelle, the annual program is a multi-phase, business and technical plan competition, free and open to students ages 13 – 18 from around the world. During the course of seven months, students use science, technology, engineering and math skills along with creativity and collaboration and entrepreneurship to develop innovative products and services in one of four categories: Aerospace and Aviation, Cybertechnology and Security, Energy and Environment, and Health and Nutrition.

This year, 20 finalist teams were selected from a pool of more than 230 entries from 44 countries and throughout the United States to attend the 2013 Innovation Summit. NASA Johnson Space Center, located in Houston, hosted the April 10 – 13 event.

No simple science fair, these young inventors designed products such as the Magnitact which helps colleagues digitally collaborate in real time over multiple digital devices, and modular homes called LandRAFTS which use retired shipping containers as a foundation for self-sustaining homes for use in the wake of natural disasters.

Other products include Plus Prosthetics which increases the ease with which an amputee with a prosthetic hand or arm can interact with the world, and a versatile radiation and micrometeoroid shielding for use both in space and on Earth called XFT 1. For a full listing of finalist products, visit

The finalist teams pitched their ideas “Lean Startup” style before an esteemed panel of judges consisting of industry experts, leading entrepreneurs, government officials and world-renowned scientists. The judges critiqued each team’s product based on commercial viability, scientific soundness and its potential to support global sustainability.

The following four teams were named this year’s Pete Conrad Scholars:

Aerospace and Aviation, presented by Lockheed Martin

Team M^3 from Warren High School in Downey, CA, impressed the judges with their “Sleep Halo,” a low tech, but highly innovative product that has the potential to revolutionize the air travel industry. The product is an adjustable circular headrest and cushion for airplane seats to allow for maximum comfort during long flights. The coach for the team, Glenn Yamasaki, received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Coaches Award.

Cybertechnology and Security, presented by Battelle

Team AirCOM from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, NC, won top honors for their suite of electronic detection products which uses international crowd-sourced data to inform the public of dangerous levels of airborne pollutants.

Energy and Environment

Team Eco-Cooker from Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami, FL, developed a clean, self-sustaining methane production system which stores bio-waste to produce a combustible gas that works as a low-cost energy and heating source. The product is intended for use in developing countries.

Health and Nutrition

The Back Straight Boys from Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, CA, sought to improve the problem of computer related musculoskeletal pain and injury through use of the “Posture Pad”. The product gives real-time feedback to the user to improve posture and reduce injury risk.

“Young people have an immense aptitude for imagining unique solutions,” said Nancy Conrad, founder and chairman of the Conrad Foundation. “These teams are an outstanding example of the capabilities of this innovation generation. When given the opportunity to design their future and create viable products that speak to their interests and passions, they never cease to amaze.”

Each winning team received an innovation grant of $10,000 to continue product development and a one-year affiliate membership to Sigma Xi. All teams competing as finalists will be considered for the Conrad Portal, a mentoring program designed to assist teams in the practical development of their product. To promote the importance of patent protection to the innovation cycle, the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation will provide one finalist team with a $5,000 grant to offset patent filing fees.

Additional Innovation Summit honors include:

Skybox Out-of-the-Box Challenge, sponsored by Skybox Imaging

Cybertechnology & Security team Radians of the Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China received a $5,000 award for their AgileEvac. The product is a mobile application for emergency response and disaster relief. The team’s product integrates Skybox Imaging’s timely high-resolution satellite imagery and video product offerings into their design.

Nancy Conrad Innovative Teacher of the Year

Claude Charron, coach of the 2013 Eco-Cooker team and the 2012 Team Gulliver International received the honor for excellence in education and for being an outstanding advocate for the program. Charron is a teacher at Gulliver School in Miami. In addition to a cash award, Gulliver School will display for one year, a custom-designed bronze trophy by sculptor Erik Lindbergh, grandson of famous aviator Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh.

In addition to team product presentations, this year’s event featured a special presentation by Astronaut Alan Bean, fourth man to walk on the Moon. Capt. Bean shared his memories Pete Conrad and their adventures during the first moon landing.

As participants of the Innovation Summit, students received a personal message from International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn. Students also participated in Fireside Chats with CEOs, inventors, cyber security experts, astronauts, explorers and physicians. As special guests of NASA, students and their coaches received “behind-the-scenes” tours of NASA Johnson Space Center’s research facilities.

Details about the 2013-2014 Spirit of Innovation Challenge will be announced in May. For more information, visit

About The Conrad Foundation

The Conrad Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to transforming the current methods of teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in high schools. The Spirit of Innovation program is free to all who wish to participate and reaches all socio-economic levels. The Foundation is the only organization of its kind to combine education, innovation and entrepreneurship to inspire solutions for achieving global sustainability. For more information, visit

Carrie Taylor, Education & Outreach Director
Conrad Foundation
832-319-7362; 281-642-6981 (mobile); carrie.taylor (at)

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.