The potential investors hovering in the background are one indication that the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Awards Summit, founded in honor of former astronaut Pete Conrad, isn't your average science fair. Instead of just trophies, winners are presented with grant money they can use to turn their projects into commercial reality (top winners in each category receive $5,000; all finalists receive $1,000 in matching grants).
This year's competition included entries in four different categories: Aerospace, Renewable Energy, Green Building, and Space Nutrition. Here are the grand prize winners.
After honing their 'bot-building skills at the National Underwater Robotics Challenge, the robotics club at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, AZ decided to up the ante by designing a robot to assist astronauts. Dubbed an EVROV (extra-vehicular remotely operated vehicle), the robot is equipped with a 3-D vision system that gives it two staggered views of its surroundings, offering the human operator greater depth perception that could come in handy for tasks like inspecting space installations or making repairs. "It's docked outside the spacecraft," team member John Harris says. "If there are any problems, you can go out there without an astronaut."