Afolabi Williams, team leader, Olubusiyi Famobiwo, Menashi Mordi and Osagumwenro Naaman Ugbo, members of Team NEON from Whitesands School, Lagos, have emerged as the 2018 Power Pitch Winner of the Smoke-Free World category of the Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation challenge summit held at the Kennedy Space Centre, Visitor Complex, Florida, USA.
The four junior school students made it to the fourth round and final stage of the competition, the only representatives from Nigeria and Africa that participated in the finals. They pitched their idea on a Virtual Farm project, which falls under the category for Smoke-Free World. The Conrad Challenge is an international and multi-phase innovation competition focusing on five areas: Aerospace Aviation, Cyber Technology and Security, Energy and Environment, Health and Nutrition, and recently, Smoke-Free World. The Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Challenge (SOIC) presents high school students with a very broad challenge: create an innovative product that provides solution to a real-world problem such that someone can pay for it, by applying principles in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Students were not just asked to complete a science project: they were required to conduct a research to determine their creation’s potential market impact and develop a full business plan. This annual competition challenges teams to use science, technology, engineering and math innovation, as well as entrepreneurship, to create a more sustainable world for today and the future generations. The global decline of smoking have many positive health impacts, but also brought negative economic consequences to tobacco farmers, many of whom are in developing nations. Students were invited to design 21st Century solutions to farmland that is currently used for tobacco production, especially in African countries. Established in 2008, the Conrad Foundation honours the legacy of Apollo 12 astronaut, Charles “Pete” Conrad, and his four decade passion for innovation and entrepreneurship. The students received the Good Citizen Award in the same summit and were accompanied to the summit by their coach, Matthew Omotoso, the junior school ICT teacher at Whitesands. Inspired by the team’s outstanding young talents and driven by its passion for innovation, leading African bank, Guaranty Trust Bank plc, sponsored the young innovators to the finale of the Conrad Challenge. The Bank’s sponsorship included, among other benefits, the total coverage of the team’s travel and stay in America.