HOUSTON, Texas – Gulliver Preparatory School, a Project Lead The Way (PLTW) school located in Miami, Fla., received two awards at the 2013 Innovation Summit, the final round of competition for the 2012-2013 Spirit of Innovation Challenge sponsored by the Conrad Foundation.
The team of PLTW students, Team Eco-Cooker, won the Conrad Scholars honor in the “Energy and Environment” category for their product, a clean, self-sustaining methane production system. The device stores bio-waste to produce a combustible gas that works as a low-cost energy and heating source intended for developing countries. In addition, Claude Charron, Gulliver’s PLTW engineering and biomedical sciences department chair, was named the Conrad Foundation’s Teacher of the Year.
Students from 44 countries gathered in Houston from April 10-13 to present their products or services. Overall, 230 entries were submitted, and 20 finalists were selected to compete in the Innovation Summit. The finalist teams pitched their ideas “Lean Startup” style before an esteemed panel of judges consisting of industry experts, leading entrepreneurs, government officials, and world-renowned scientists. The judges critiqued each team’s product based on commercial viability, scientific soundness, and its potential to support global sustainability. Only four teams were named Conrad Scholars, each in their own product or service category.
Nancy Conrad, founder and chairman of the Conrad Foundation, said in a statement released by the organization, “These teams are an outstanding example of the capabilities of this innovation generation. When given the opportunity to design their future and create viable products that speak to their interests and passions, they never cease to amaze.”
Team Eco-Cooker received support from their school and community. However, the opportunity for the students’ to compete and excel in the challenge was attributed to their PLTW teacher and coach, Charron.
In 2004, Charron started PLTW’s Pathway To Engineering program at Gulliver, and four years later, he implemented the Biomedical Sciences program and the middle school Gateway To Technology pre-engineering program.
“We want our students to design and develop technology solutions that improve the quality of life,” said Charron. “That is the overriding premise – for our students to learn not just from textbooks.”
As the Nancy Conrad Innovative Teacher of the Year, Charron accepted a cash award, and Gulliver will display for one year a specialty trophy sculpted by Erik Lindbergh, grandson of famous aviator Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh. The team also received a $10,000 grant to continue product development. They will also be considered for the Conrad Portal, a mentoring program designed to help teams with the practical development of their product.
About PLTW Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is the leading provider of rigorous and innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education curricular programs used in schools. As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, PLTW exists to prepare students for the global economy through its world-class curriculum, high-quality professional development, and an engaged network of educators, students, universities and professionals. PLTW's comprehensive curriculum has been collaboratively designed by PLTW teachers, university educators, engineering and biomedical professionals, and school administrators to promote critical thinking, creativity, innovation and real-world problem solving skills in students. The hands-on, project-based program engages students on multiple levels, exposes them to areas of study that they typically do not pursue, and provides them with a foundation and proven path to college and career success. More than 4,700 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are currently offering PLTW courses to their students. For more information, visit www.pltw.org.