Accepting the Challenge of Transforming Education

Turning entrepreneurship, education, and innovation into a Moon shot

Update: The registration deadline for the 2018-19 Conrad Challenge has been extended to November 2, 2018. Learn how to register your team of 2-5 students at conradchallenge.org

This is part 2 in a two-part series with Nancy Conrad

by Dr. Rod Berger

Once you’re a teacher, you’re always a teacher… and Nancy Conrad is a teacher. I sat down with Nancy recently to talk about her work with the Conrad Foundation and the 2018-2019 Conrad Challenge, in which high school students learn about entrepreneurship and innovation. “We invite them to design the future, essentially,” Nancy says. “We ask them to solve global and local challenges in aerospace, energy, cybersecurity, and health. We ask them to create technology tools for use in the classroom ─ and kids creating systems for deployment in classrooms is exciting.”

Nancy is also scheduled to participate as an analyst on two different panels during FETC 2019, set to take place in Orlando from January 27th to the 30th, discussing ways to invite students to transform technology use in the classrooms.

“I've been working at transforming education my entire life,” Nancy says. “I had the great honor to be married to a fantastic human being who had a rough ride in education,” she shares, referring to her late husband, astronaut Pete Conrad, who was expelled from a prestigious school in the 11th grade because he was a severe dyslexic in the years before it was recognized, much less treated. He ended up repeating 11th grade in a small upstate New York school.

“The headmaster at that small school saw something in him and took him under his wing,” Nancy smiles. “My husband learned to deal with his learning disability and earned a scholarship to Princeton and became an aeronautical engineer. He went on to become a Navy test pilot, an astronaut, and the third person to walk on the Moon.”

“Here's a guy whose whole story is because an educator took a young person under his wing and gave him a chance,” Nancy says. “And that literally kicked off a Moon shot.”

Registration for the 2018-19 Conrad Challenge opened online on Friday, August 24th at ConradChallenge.org, and registrations must be completed by October 19th, 2018. Teams of 2-5 high school students are invited to get involved, along with an educator advisor who can bring the team together. Judges will be knowledgeable subject-matter experts, as well as industry and market leaders. The Conrad Challenge is for students to create commercially viable products to solve social challenges. “This isn't teacups and t-shirts,” Nancy warns. “This is the real stuff.”

As past Conrad Challenges have shown, the process is difficult but very rewarding. Students will write a business plan, a market study, and a visual representation of their proposed idea. They'll even file for patents, and the students will own their patents and intellectual property.

The proposals are judged, and 250 young people will get invited to the Kennedy Space Center from the April 24th to 27th. “The best way to think about it is that it's Shark Tank meets the Academy Awards for kids,” Nancy says. “They come together from all over the world. We've had students from India, Nigeria, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand ─ you name it ─ and they become an amazing community of young innovators.” And like the chance her husband got from an educator, Nancy and the Conrad Foundation believe that every kid deserves a Moon shot.

About Nancy Conrad

Nancy Conrad created the Conrad Foundation in 2008 to energize and engage students in science and technology through unique entrepreneurial opportunities. The organization’s flagship program, the Conrad Challenge, is a global competition challenging students to combine education, innovation and entrepreneurship to create products that address real-world challenges and global sustainability.

By enabling young minds to connect education, innovation and entrepreneurship, the Foundation helps provide a bold platform for enriching the innovative workforce of the future. As a leader in transformative education, she has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology detailing how the Conrad Foundation exemplifies the use of partnership and mentorship to improve STEM education.

She has been named one of the top 100 leaders in STEM Education. Ms. Conrad serves on the Board of Directors of the Presidential Scholars.

Follow Nancy Conrad on Twitter.

The Conrad Challenge is an annual, multi-phase innovation and entrepreneurial competition that encourages young adults to leave their mark on the world. Each year, teams of 2-5 students, ages 13-18, from around the globe create products and/or services that address some of the most pressing global challenges. The registration process for the 2018-19 Challenge is open from August 24 - October 19, 2018. Register your team today at www.conradchallenge.org!

Nancy Conrad will be a featured panelist at FETC 2019, January 27-30 in Orlando, Florida. The conference will bring together thousands of educators and technology leaders for an intensive, highly collaborative exploration of new technologies, best practices and pressing issues. Registration is now open.

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