Our session was from 4:30 to 6:00, and we were the third group to go. After the first group presented an idea to install a biological electricity infrastructure that relies on small trash cans in each family’s household, the judges unleashed a barrage of questions and comments, pointing out many flaws in the students’ design. Shamere passed me a note that said, “These judges go H.A.M.,” which is basically slang for “These judges don’t mess around.” The next presenter fared better, with an interesting idea (and working prototype) for a personal portable toilet that can be used in impoverished countries and disaster areas, with the waste being deposited daily into some sort of energy-generating composter. The student was from the Isle of Man, in the UK, and proudly showed the crowd that his hand-made cardboard prototype could support his full weight of “20 stones.”
Then it came time for our presentation. As soon as Stefon started speaking, I knew they were going to knock it out of the park. He was so poised, clear, and confident as he described the history of the EVX Team, and the basic design of the Electric Very Light Car. Shamere then followed with a strong argument for why the EVLC could outperform the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf. Kaya’s section on the consumer features of the EVLC really got the crowd involved. When he called the Honda Civic a “gas guzzler,” the crowd responded with a great deal of laughter. Leon articulated our business plan very clearly and confidently, and Brandon finished strong with the environmental benefits and a summary of the presentation.
The students deliver their presentation for the judges
Unlike with the other presenters, the first thing we heard the judges say was, “That was an excellent presentation.” They then went on to ask a number of technical questions, which Stefon stepped up to the plate and handled. Listening to him answer the questions from the judges (which included at least 5 PhDs), I felt like I was listening to a professional. Not once did he get rattled, and the judges could instantly tell that they were dealing with a student team that had true expertise with their product. At the conclusion of the presentation, the kids got a roaring applause, and many of the judges made their way over to our table to shake hands and compliment the kids. We then filmed our second interview of the day, for an internet TV show. I took the kids to see Fast 5 to celebrate and relax, and Stefon proudly declared that the movie featured “no electric or hybrid vehicles!”
Throughout the Spirit of Innovation Summit, the kids have gotten the chance to listen and have conversations with some truly amazing people. Edward Lu, former astronaut and Google employee who headed the Googlemaps street view project…Nancy Conrad, the chairman of the Conrad foundation…David Eilenberg, head of development for “Survivor” and other reality shows…and numerous others. The scientists, engineers, and business-people have all been very eager to speak with the kids, who have done a great job engaging them in conversation, networking and collecting business cards, and listening to all the advice the adults have to offer. It’s been an eye-opening experience for all 5 students. Brandon has really gotten into the networking aspect, passing out his e-mail address to many of the presenters and judges. I’ve also seen Kaya and Leon gain a lot of confidence, and they’ve begun to talk with more confidence and enthusiasm about pursuing four-year college degrees.
Tomorrow is the Closing Ceremonies and the announcement of this year’s winners, so wish us luck!