Call for students to develop innovative products to solve real-world challenges

5th annual Spirit of Innovation Challenge continues its quest to transform STEM education

 HOUSTON — Recently, Nancy Conrad, founder and chairman of the Conrad Foundation, officially launched the 2011-2012 Spirit of Innovation Challenge to encourage students to create technologies and products that solve global issues. For the past four years, the Innovation competition has helped transform the way science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is being embraced by high school students.

“If we are to ignite passion for STEM education, we must embrace an academic plan to focus on the relevance of the knowledge we share with our students,…#157; said Conrad. “Memorizing facts to pass a test just won’t do the job. The hallmark of America’s culture is innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s how we got to the moon. It’s how companies like Apple, Facebook and Google were formed. It is how our country will continue to explore the universe, discover cures for disease and become good stewards of the world we share with our global neighbors.…#157;

Hosted by the Conrad Foundation, the Spirit of Innovation Challenge invites high school teams to use STEM skills in developing commercially viable, technology-based products. It is the only competition of its kind to combine education, innovation and entrepreneurship, giving students the tools they need to succeed and sustain a knowledge-based economy.

“Using a network of world-renowned scientists, engineers, academics and business leaders, the competition connects teams with mentors to assist in making their ideas a reality,…#157; said Jennifer Fotherby, executive director, Spirit of Innovation Challenge. “We are thrilled by the support and collaboration from global industry leaders in this year’s program.…#157;

The 2011-2012 Spirit of Innovation Challenge is supported by Lockheed Martin and PepsiCo and in partnership with U.S. Department of State and NASA. Additional corporate and organizational involvement from, Kraft Foods and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute is allowing for rapid program growth. This year’s Challenge Partners who provide experts, mentors and judges for the student entries include: the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation (Aerospace Exploration), The William James Foundation (Clean Energy) and the American Society for Nutrition (Health and Nutrition).

Interested student teams draft an online abstract that addresses five questions about their innovative idea for first-round judging. From there, selected semi-finalists in each challenge category – Aerospace Exploration, Clean Energy, and Health and Nutrition – develop a business plan, technical plan and graphical representation of the team’s product or innovation. The top five teams from each category will travel to the annual Innovation Summit, hosted at NASA-Ames Research Center (Moffitt Field, CA), March 29-31, 2012, where they present their innovations and vie for awards and commercialization opportunities.

The Conrad Foundation is also currently in discussion with the Department of State about sending the winners of the 2011-2012 Spirit of Innovation Challenge to Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Winning teams would present their work in conjunction with the official U.S. delegation led by the Department of State. This event will allow Spirit of Innovation winning teams a lifetime experience of joining diplomats, scientists, sustainability experts and other leaders to take a forward look on pressing global needs and opportunities for creative problem-solving.

 

This year’s Innovation competition features a new online community that facilitates student, teacher and mentor collaboration across multiple platforms, from sharing videos to uploading documents and communicating in forums. The Portal for the Spirit of Innovation Challenge is also being expanded to assist teams in acquiring patents and funding for further development and commercialization of their products.

To learn more, visit www.conradawards.org.

 

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