Four Navy Officers participated as judges in the 2016 Spirit of Innovation Conrad Challenge at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. from Apr. 20-23.

The Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge is an annual, multiphase innovation and entrepreneurial competition that brings in teams of high school students from around the world who invent, design, create and promote inventions in one of four fields: Aerospace and Aviation, Cyber Technology and Security, Energy and Environment, and Health and Nutrition.

The event kicked off with the participants, also known as diplomats, giving their first round of power pitches. A power pitch is the name for the presentation the teams gave about their individual inventions or prototypes. These pitches were judged by a group of experts for accuracy, originality and marketability.

After their preliminary pitches, the teams had to give their presentations in front of their fellow competitors and a panel of judges including the Navy officers. The second round of pitches was judged based on the style, content and delivery of the presentation.

“The presentations were very advanced and complicated and I think what impressed me the most was how thoughtful the students were in approaching problems that were current and applicable to things that we face today,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jami J. Peterson, a Medical Corps fellow at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Falls Church, Virginia, and judge of the Health and Nutrition panel.

The first set of presentations was in the category of Cyber Technology immediately followed by the Aerospace and Aviation portion.

During the presentations, the Navy judges were able to see and critique some of the newest innovations in their fields of study.

“The prototypes were pretty well thought out and obviously they spent a lot of time researching what they needed to build and they succeeded tremendously,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher T. Coy from the staff of Office of Naval Intelligence and judge on the Cyber Technology and Security panel. “One of my favorites was the HeatRescue, a device that allows you to tell if there is a living being in a hot car without needing to be around the vehicle.”

Following the power pitches, participants visited the Apollo/Saturn V Center and were able to take a tour of the center and learn the history behind the many space explorations that led to the 1969 moon landing. Along with the tour, the diplomats were also given the opportunity to listen to a variety of speakers from various backgrounds, including Capt. Dave Bouve, marketing and advertising director at Navy Recruiting Command (NRC).

“It was a real pleasure and an honor visiting the Kennedy Space Center, the site where so much history happened and where the Navy has had the great fortune to provide so much of a contribution to our space program,” said Bouve. “The energy, intelligence, optimism and creativity these young adults displayed was inspiring. The real trick is making sure we continue to effectively communicate the Navy message, because the better we are able to capture the attention and aspiration of young adults like this, the better off our Navy is going to be.”

From there, diplomats had the chance to have a group conversation with Capt. (ret.) Jon McBride, resident Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center Astronaut. McBride discussed his experiences as an astronaut and fielded questions from the audience about his vision for the future of space exploration.

After the chat with McBride, the teams began giving their second power pitch in the field of Energy and Environment which was followed by pitches in the field of Health and Nutrition.

“Interests in the areas of STEM are so important,” said Cmdr. Kenneth Roman, director of Submarine and Nuclear Accessions at NRC, and judge for the Energy and Environment panel. “The Conrad Challenge is really an opportunity for the students to present these innovative ideas and push this area forward. STEM being an important field in the Navy, we need individuals coming up that are able to do the research and operate these amazing pieces of machinery.”

Following the second set of power pitches, diplomats engaged in a group discussion on how to improve communication in the community and the means for making lasting connections.

As part of the Conrad Challenge, guests were given a chance to take part in the Atlantis Exhibit/Shuttle Launch Experience. From there, the diplomats and their families and coaches were able to listen to a variety of guest speakers.

The event concluded with the announcement of the winners and award ceremony.

Taking first place in the Aerospace and Aviation category was Team Noodles with their Sixth Sense Helmet, an invention designed to help filter out toxic chemicals in space. In the Cyber-technology and Security category, Team Kosmos took first place with an invention that allowed first responders the ability to be able to access a patient’s medical records from an app to provide the best care possible. Team Firebird took gold in the Energy and Environment category with their NaSoPod, an invention designed to absorb heat from the sun during the daytime and release that heat inside of a home in the evening. In the final category of Health and Nutrition,

Team Ilm earned top honors for their invention DStress, an invention designed to lower stress levels in patients and improve overall health.

“New opportunities are emerging all the time for everyone and whether you are a student or in the military, as you leave I encourage you to continue to learn and continue your education,” said Capt. Kathryn P. Hire, former NASA astronaut, current director of innovation at the United States Naval Academy and judge for the Aerospace and Aviation panel. “Always work to hone your skills because you never know when a great opportunity is going to come your way and we need people who are willing and ready to take those strides into the future.”

The Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge Conrad Challenge was founded by Nancy Conrad in honor of her late husband, Apollo astronaut, innovator, and entrepreneur, Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr. The Conrad Challenge is an annual, multiphase innovation and entrepreneurial competition focused on innovations and technologies that will benefit the world.

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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)