Nancy Conrad is a former teacher, a recognized leader in transformative education, and founder of the Conrad Challenge, a competition that combines STEM education and a spirit of entrepreneurism to unleash students’ potential to change the world. At the Conrad Challenge Innovation Summit 2019, 35 teams from around the world were brought to the Kennedy Space Center to present their creative solutions for issues including energy and environment, health and nutrition, and transforming education through technology.
As the new school year starts, we spoke to Nancy speaks about the legacy of this influential challenge and how schools across the country can get involved.
Tell us a little about the Conrad Challenge and how it benefits students?
This is a unique opportunity for students to participate in their learning experience as they work in small teams to find innovative solutions to real-world issues. By participating in the Challenge, students can work with subject matter experts and prepare to enter the workforce
Our students learn how to start with an idea, turn it into a product or service, and then create a business plan and market study that can take the next step for their product to be part of social impact. They are invited to design their future.
How did the Challenge begin?
The Challenge is named for my late husband, Pete, an Apollo astronaut and Moon walker. Pete had a passion for entrepreneurism that aligned with my passion for education transformation. He was creative and bold. We both understood the need to combine STEM education with the spirit of entrepreneurship. That combination empowers students to unleash their creativity in a collaborative framework.
What are your goals for the Challenge?
I don’t want the future to just happen. The future needs to be created by us. That’s what we do with the Conrad Challenge. We prepare students to create that future, for themselves, their communities and the larger global community.
They learn to think differently – not thinking in a box or outside a box – but to recognize there is no box to limit their creativity and potential. Students are empowered to solve the issues that are important to them and their communities.
How do students and teachers get involved?
The 2019-2020 Conrad Challenge registration opened Aug. 23. Teams can register at conradchallenge.org and find all the information they need to join this year’s competition.
Registration is open until Nov. 1 at which time teams must have identified the issue they want to address and submitted an “investor’s pitch” outlining the challenge and solution. I encourage teams to register as early as possible, so they have the most time to work on their project.
Teams consist of 2-5 students ages 13-18 with a coach, over the age of 18 to help guide them through the process.
Teams will have access to judges and subject matter experts who will provide feedback throughout the process. Teams selected to move on to Phase 2 of the competition in November. The top five finalists in each of our four categories will be announced in February 2020 and invited to participate in the Innovation Summit in Florida in April.