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Student Innovators Dedicate Their Efforts to Create a Smoke-Free World

The Conrad Challenge 2020 Virtual Innovation Summit successfully concluded on Friday, May 29, with seven teams awarded top honors as “Pete Conrad Scholars” in their specific categories. A new record was set with 600 teams of 2-5 students between the ages of 13-18 entering the competition beginning in August and culminating in 37 finalists competing in last week’s virtual summit.

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW) sponsored the Smoke-Free World special category for the third consecutive year, with two separate strands: Re-Purposed Farmlands and Tobacco Crops, and Eliminating & Reducing Teen Vaping. During the virtual summit, Derek Yach, Founder & President of FSFW, sat down with Nancy Conrad, Founding Chairman of the Conrad Foundation, to discuss up-to-date findings and research since the COVID-19 pandemic and the interesting road ahead for a world that’s rapidly changing.

Cosmic Chat with the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

Yach believes that the pandemic is set to inform a great deal about future innovations and has already changed the direction of foundation research. The role of nicotine, for instance, has ironically arisen as containing preventative elements in the fight against the COVID-19 virus. His foundation has quickly shifted focus to research the nicotine correlation. In addition to the tobacco-related initiatives, humanitarian help during this crisis remains a focus of the foundation’s efforts. There are many disparate groups around the world in need of assistance, and FSFW has adapted its efforts to shift to areas most in need.

Conrad remarked, “It’s like we’re living on a different planet right now.” She described the phenomenon before COVID and after COVID (B.C vs. A.C.) in terms of education becoming the new diplomacy as well as the role of social media. She asked Yach to expand on what skills students will need in a post-COVID world. In addition to science and technology, Yach recommends young people read the book The World: A Brief Introduction by Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Haass brings up the interconnectedness of the world and the critical role of macroeconomics. Yach also highlighted the value of interpersonal relationships and social skills and the need to work with diversity in culture and language. 

Conrad added to Yach’s insights applauding the attitude of the teams of students that are part of the Conrad Challenge. Interdisciplinary pursuits and globalized perceptions are part of their makeup. Conrad remarked, “They see the world as the astronauts did – no borders and no boundaries.” It will take what Conrad has coined “No-Box Thinkers” to get to the bottom of future issues, including pandemics like the one we are presently facing.

Following the Cosmic Chat, Power Pitch videos were presented from the finalist teams in the Smoke-Free World: Re-Purposed Farmlands and Tobacco Crops and Smoke-Free World: Eliminating & Reducing Teen Vaping categories and they participated in a live Q&A with judges. The following teams competed:

Student Teams – Smoke-Free World: Re-Purposed Farmlands and Tobacco Crops

• TobaccOats (Colorado) – This team emerged as the winners in the category. They started a company that extracts the extraneous amount of protein present in tobacco leaves and creates protein supplements that can be added to items such as oatmeal and granola bars. Click here to watch the Power Pitch video from team TobaccOats.

• Nexkap (North Carolina) – This team demonstrated a universal, plant-based solvent that works as a body cream to relieve common topical skin issues, such as eczema, blisters, sunburns, and acne.

• Planet Pipeline (Australia) – These young innovators created a Lifeboat that is a floating communal food garden that provides aid to disaster-stricken countries.

• Team Marilag (Philippines) – These students created TaliCo, an eco-friendly hair accessory line made primarily from tobacco fibers.

• The Golden Harvest Co. (Philippines) – These young entrepreneurs produced NicoAid, a tobacco plant-based organic bandage that accelerates angiogenesis and wound healing.

Student Teams – Smoke-Free World: Eliminating & Reducing Teen Vaping

• VapeEscape (New York & Dominican Republic) – This team, who were named the winners of the category, produced a fixed, indoor vape aerosol and cigarette smoke detection device that works with a notification system and interactive map to combat vaping in public spaces. Its objective is to ultimately reduce the number of people who vape and smoke. Click here to watch team VapeEscape’s Power Pitch video.

• Brave the Crave (California) – These students invented an app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help teens break their dependence on e-cigarettes.

• BrEathe Happy (Florida) – This team introduced an educational program that uses four individual and unique simulations that cover all negative aspects of vaping.

• eduVape (Nevada) – This team of young entrepreneurs developed a device that attaches directly to e-cigarettes to relay data, such as nicotine intake, to a paired application.

• Nicfreeworld (Virginia) – These young innovators created an injectable Adeno-associated virus used to knock down the receptor implicated in causing nicotine addiction.

All participants brought their “A” games to the pitch presentations and the Q&A format, but in the end, only one team from each category could be awarded the top honor. In the category of Repurposed Farmlands & Tobacco Crops, TobaccOats, from Lafayette, Colo. were named the Pete Conrad Scholars. In the Eliminating & Reducing Teen Vaping category, the VapeEscape team with members from N.J., N.Y., and the Dominican Republic took first place. The Pete Conrad Scholar designation is named in honor of Apollo 12 astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad and his three-decade pursuit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Power Pitches from Smoke-Free World finalist teams:


Conrad Challenge logo 1

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