Space Commerce

2012 Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge Winners Announced

By Marc Boucher
Press Release
April 13, 2012
Filed under
2012 Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge Winners Announced

Four teams of high school students unleashed a new wave of product development and entrepreneurism receiving top honors at the 2012 Innovation Summit, the final round of competition for the 2011-2012 Spirit of Innovation Challenge (Conrad Challenge). Winning presentations ranged from a water purifying specialty bicycle that creates potable water while also serving as transportation in under-developed communities to a new lightweight fabric constructed of phase-changing crystals for cooling and ventilation in harsh environments.
The conference took place March 29-31 at NASA-Ames Research Center. It gathered 15 finalist teams, who have been competing since fall 2011 to develop innovative products that tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues in the areas of aerospace exploration, clean energy, and health and nutrition. The program is hosted by the Conrad Foundation.

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

* Aerospace Exploration

Moonwalking Manakins, Cinco Ranch High School, Katy, TX for its SPacemaker device that stimulates an astronaut’s heart contractions at a healthy pace in order to reduce heart atrophy and atrophy of other organs incurred during space travel.

Infinity, West Salem High School, West Salem, OR for its Infinity Suit which utilizes a newly developed fabric constructed of phase-changing crystals to provide a better alternative to Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment (LCVG) used in astronaut spacesuits.

* Clean Energy

Operation Gulliver International, Gulliver Preparatory, Miami, FL for its Operation Gulliver International water filtration device that removes bacteria, pathogens and viruses from disease-spreading water in developing countries or those hit by natural disasters.

* Health and Nutrition

Team H20, St. Francis Academy, Conroe, TX for its H20 water purification system which utilizes an affordable retrofit/replacement wheel for bicycles that purifies dirty water as the user rides their bicycle to and from work in developing countries that lack potable water.

“The Conrad Challenge students are the Innovation Generation,” said Nancy Conrad, founder and chairman of the Conrad Foundation. “Each year, we are inspired by the brilliance of these young entrepreneurs. When given the opportunity to design their future and create viable products to solve real world challenges, they never cease to amaze me.”

The winning teams were selected by an elite 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. There was also a public voting component. The Conrad Foundation announced the winners on the final day of the Innovation Summit. For the first time in the history of the program there was a tie in the aerospace exploration category.

Each winning team received a Next Step Grant of $5,000 to continue product development and a one-year affiliate membership to Sigma Xi, an international, multidisciplinary research society whose programs and activities promote the health of the scientific enterprise and honor scientific achievement. All teams competing as finalists will also be considered for the Conrad Portal, a mentoring and educational program designed to assist teams in growing as individual innovators, businesspeople and scientists through the practical development of their product ideas.

Other honors bestowed at the Innovation Summit included the following: – Innovative Teacher of the Year – Roger Kassebaum, the coach of the 2012 Ballet, Autism, and Mirror Neurons team and a teacher at Milken Community High School in Los Angeles, received the first Teacher of the Year recognition from the Conrad Foundation. Sponsored by Fisher Space Pen(R), this award honors Kassebaum for excellence in guiding numerous teams through the competition since its inception in 2008. He received a $500 stipend and commemorative trophy for his commitment to student innovation. Kassebaum also took home a custom-designed bronze trophy by Sculptor Erik Lindbergh, grandson of famous aviator Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, for display at the Milken School for one year until the prize is awarded to another educator at the 2013 Spirit of Innovation Summit.

– People’s Choice Award – The Bros, North Carolina School of Science and Math, Durham, NC received the most votes cast during the online, public voting period. Each team member received a Kindle Fire for their PiezoMat product which is composed of renewable collagen film (made from recycled dry bone) and super-efficient lead zirconatetitanate inserted into shoes that generates a significant electrical current to recharge small electric devices.

– Michael Lampert and Christy Esmahan from West Salem High School and Cinco Ranch High School respectively, the coaches from the winning teams in the aerospace exploration category, each received a $500 stipend from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation, for their dedication to innovative education.

A key Summit highlight occurred during the opening ceremonies on March 29 – a down-linked message from the International Space Station. On behalf of the Expedition 30 crew, U.S. astronauts Don Pettit and Dan Burbank saluted all of the finalists for their creativity and ingenuity.

“The world needs great thinkers, but more importantly we need great doers,” Pettit said. “By being selected as finalists, it’s clear you are doers. You exemplify what’s great about the Innovation Generation movement. Your products have great potential and this competition provides momentum for your ideas to become real.”

Presented by Lockheed Martin Corporation and PepsiCo, the annual Conrad Challenge inspires high school students around the globe to combine innovation and entrepreneurship with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to create commercially-viable products. Details about the 2012-2013 Conrad Challenge will be announced in May.

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

Relevant Links:

Innovation Summit:
Spirit of Innovation Challenge:
Finalist Pages and People’s Choice Award:
Conrad Foundation:
Pete Conrad Scholars:
Sigma Xi:
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation:
Down-linked message from the International Space Station:
Lockheed Martin Corporation:

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.