Innovation Awards

You Think Pitching Your Startup Idea Is Hard? Watch These Kids Do It

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Around eighty entrepreneur hopefuls gathered at NASA AMES last week to pitch their ideas for breakthrough technological products, with the hopes of gaining the funding to make their dreams a reality. But this wasn’t part of the application process for a new fangled startup accelerator program, and the teams weren’t comprised of Valley visionairies in their 20s and 30s but rather high school kids between the ages of 14-18.

To compete in the Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Awards, each team of high schoolers had to create a business plan, technical report, graphical representation and elevator pitch for their product, presenting their invention to a panel of judges for 10 minutes. All in all 27 finalists competed in the Aerospace, Clean Energy and Cyber security categories to win $5,000 and the community support and mentorship to develop their product commercially.

While their peers were pitching on stage, I interviewed ten of the most promising teams about their product vision, what it was like to be so ambitious at young age and their thoughts about young entrepreneurship. Three of our interviewed teams went on to win the competition (Unisecurity, Ouroboros and West Philly EVX Team) but every participant won in the long run as they got to spend four days at NASA surrounded by other nerdy kids excited about changing the world.

From Ouroboros (a team focused on a “perpetual nutrition system” or a mechanism that would turn organic human waste into compost that can be used to grow crops) to S.A.R.A. (safe word activated mobile app designed to stop sexual assault by notifying the police) the level of professionalism and passion exhibited by these students was impressive.

And more importantly, none of their ideas was on this list of startup ideas destined to fail. Hooray for the future.

(Green B.A.C.O.N, in the video above, wants to use natural sunlight to reduce lighting costs.)

Ouroboros is a composting system for human waste.

UniSecurity wants to create a smartphone app that acts as a heart rate monitor for the elderly or others with cardiac issues, reacting to heart rate irregularities by alerting emergency contacts if there’s an issue.

Air-Ease built a solar powered fan, because many on their Montezuma Creek Indian reservation

West Philly EVX Team actually built a light weight, market ready electric car.

S.T.A.R. wants to make glasses for augmented reality.

SARA is an iPhone app designed to respond in the case of sexual assault.

R Squared is building a mobile app that lets users easily notify their friends when they need a safe ride.

Lennox Aerospace wants to build a space scaffolding structure designed to provide astronauts with privacy.

Kinergy is a mobile phone charger that runs off of the kinetic energy created from human movement.