'Spirit of Innovation' Awards Announced at NASA Ames
Following stiff competition from 65 high school teams across the country (and one from Australia) winners of the 2009 Pete Conrad “Spirit of Innovation” Awards were acknowledged and recognized for their innovative science projects on Saturday, April 4, 2009, at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Image of Linda Conrad at Spirit of Innovation competition
Nancy Conrad presented the annual Spirit of Innovation Awards to the winners of the high school competition held at NASA Ames Research Center April 2-4, 2009. Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center
Grants totaling more than $120,000 were awarded to the winning teams throughout the three-day Innovation Generation Summit held April 2-4, 2009 at NASA Ames.

“It is our privilege to host this event,” said Gary Martin, director, New Ventures and Communications Directorate at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “NASA Ames prides itself on creativity and innovation and this is a great fit for the Conrad Foundation to hold the Innovation Generation Summit here.”

The “Spirit of Innovation” award is named for the late Charles ‘Pete’ Conrad, a highly decorated naval aviator and astronaut who took his first space flight on Gemini V in 1965. Later, as commander of Apollo XII in 1969, Conrad was the third person to walk on the moon.

Conrad’s widow, Nancy, serves as chairman of the Conrad Foundation. She formed the program to provide high school students with an understanding of science and technology. The annual summit is a tribute to Pete Conrad's history of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Image of a finalist in the annual Spirit of Innovation competition, seen here in the Sunbeam Rider solar powered electric cart.
One of the finalists in the annual Spirit of Innovation competition was the NASA Ames sponsored team from the Latino College Preparatory Academy, San Jose, seen here in the Sunbeam Rider solar powered electric cart. Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center
“This is not a science fair,” said Nancy Conrad at the conclusion of the event. “Our teams are creating real products and winning is only the beginning. These awards serve as a pathway to further developing their ideas.”

During the summit, 21 high school finalists presented their concepts and participated in workshops with members of industry and others in the scientific community.

All of the student-lead teams were challenged to create an entrepreneurial enterprise and develop a concept centered on the areas of lunar exploration, innovative products for use in personal spaceflight, or developing a way to use renewable energy.

The Ames-sponsored team consisted of students from the Latino College Preparatory Academy (LCPA) a charter high school run by the National Hispanic University. LCPA’s project “Sunbeam Rider” included a golf-cart sized electric car provided by NASA Ames and a solar panel on the car to provide electrical energy to the batteries. The project also included building a prototype charging station.

The innovation featured an option that used a collection of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a single solar cell instead of multiple solar cells, thereby significantly reducing the number of solar cells required to charge the battery.

All first place winners will become a part of the future Conrad Awards Advisory Board. They also will have their names flown in space on a future mission to the International Space Station.

For more information on the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Awards, a list of the 21 finalists and the award winners, visit:


Bruce Buckingham
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.