The Conrad Foundation: Education and Entrepreneurship

The Conrad Foundation is a non-profit science education organization that connects brilliant high school students with today’s science and business leaders to foster an educational community to inspire the next generation of innovators. Before I go on, you should know that TriplePoint represents The Conrad Foundation on a pro-bono basis. The Conrad Foundation is working incredibly hard these days to get recognition for students across the country that are making a difference by stepping up and contributing solutions to some of our out planets biggest challenges, and I wanted to take a moment to recognize them and tell you a bit more about what they do.

The core of the Conrad philosophy comes from the late, great, astronaut, Charles “Pete” Conrad, the first person to dance on the moon. Pete’s history of innovation and entrepreneurship is the foundation for the Conrad Foundation’s yearly Spirit of Innovation Awards – a competition where high school students design and prototype products to solve problems in one of four categories: aerospace exploration, green schools, renewable energy and space nutrition. Each student team is matched up with an advisor who guides them through the submission process; generating ideas, creating design documents and business proposals. The finalist teams, who were announced today, will travel to NASA Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale, CA this coming April to participate in the Innovation Summit followed by the Spirit of Innovation Awards ceremony.

During the summit, student teams meet with a variety of experts from the scientific, educational and entrepreneurial communities. Members from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Sigma Xi, an internationally recognized scientific research society, just to name a few of the prestigious organizations supporting this event, will be present. The purpose of this summit is to show students how they can take an novel idea – such as a simple idea that will make their local school more sustainable – and take it from novel idea, to prototype product, to commercial venture. The idea behind the competition is that no individual is too marginal to make a difference, regardless of age. And we’re starting to see that the Conrad Foundation is on to something big.

Daniel Asturias and Isaac Harwell working on their MoTGen project

Two teenagers, Daniel Asturias and Isaac Harwell, members of Harwell-Asturias Labs (HAL), who won the renewable energy category of the 2009 Spirit of Innovation Awards, are gaining worldwide notoriety for their motionless thermal generator (MoTGen) project, which generates electricity from thermal energy underneath the sea floor. This past December Daniel and Isaac were interviewed by BBC Radio as part of their coverage of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Copenhagen, Denmark this past December. The interview, also found online, talks about the great ideas that are coming from young innovators, emphasizing how important it is for us to think outside the box, not only when it comes to the solutions we pursue, but where those solutions come from.

Empowering young innovators like Daniel and Isaac by helping them build on their knowledge of pure science through direct access to the world’s top scientific minds and creative entrepreneurs is what the Conrad Foundation is all about. Enabling these students to change the world is their mission.