Young Innovators Present Solutions to Challenges of the 21st Century
High school teams from across the country presented their solutions to a variety of 21st century problems during the Conrad Foundation’s Innovation Summit held March 29 - 31, 2012 at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
This fifth annual event included 15 finalist teams competing in the categories of aerospace exploration, clean energy and health and nutrition.
“Young people represent the future. NASA supports and encourages their creativity and innovative solutions to the complex problems of sustainable living on Earth and human space exploration. They are an inspiration to us all,” said Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames.
All teams were highly competitive. Judges of the aerospace exploration category declared a tie between teams Infinity from West Salem High School in Oregon, and Moonwalking Mannakins from Cinco Ranch High School in Katy, Texas. Infinity won for their new fabric made of phase-changing crystals that provide an alternative to the current Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment (LCVG). This material maintains a safe and stable temperature for astronauts’ bodies when they face extreme conditions in space.
The Moonwalking Mannakins won for their SPacemaker device, which stimulates an astronaut’s heart contractions at a healthy rate to reduce heart atrophy during space flight. Composed of a modified pacemaker, one that is applied on the skin, the SPacemaker allows the heart to pump blood at a faster rate than normal in space.
The winner of the clean energy category was Operation Gulliver International, a team from Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami, Fla. Focused on Haiti, it won for their water filtration device that removes bacteria, pathogens and viruses from unclean water. It uses a 15-gallon container with a NanoCeram filter connected to a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe. An Attwood hand pump pulls in water; mechanical energy forces it through a PVC-lined filtration system, and then releases clean, drinkable water. The device can be transported on a dolly across the difficult terrain in Haiti.
Team H2O from St. Francis Academy in Conroe, Texas won the Health and Nutrition category with their affordable retrofit/replacement wheel for bicycles that purifies dirty water during bicycle use. A special inner tube with one-way valves acts as peristaltic pumps pushing water through filters. The filters are located inside the wheel, where specially designed reservoirs hold both filtered and unfiltered water. H2O is for people who live in developing countries and commute several miles daily on bicycles.
At the end of the Summit, teams Operation Gulliver International and H2O agreed to work together to provide simple, affordable, and innovative technologies that produce clean water in developing countries.
Each winning team receives $5,000 to continue the development of their product and the teams also receive assistance promoting their product in the media and at partner events and activities.
"By providing an outlet for students to use their knowledge in relevant and practical ways and by connecting them with mentors who can help make their vision a reality, we open avenues for discovery and build interest in the careers available in science and technology industries," said Nancy Conrad, chairman and founder of the Conrad Foundation.
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Ruth Dasso Marlaire
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.