Young Bangladeshi Innovators at NASA


A group of three students from St. Joseph Higher Secondary School recently traveled to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA to participate in the Conrad Innovation Summit 2015. They took part in the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge, acing two difficult online rounds to earn their ticket to NASA.  

Sadeed Araf Reza, Sakib Shahriar Arnob and Labib Tazwar Rahman are this year’s SSC candidates from St. Joseph Higher Secondary School and their journey to the other side of the globe has been quite amazing. They were the first ever representatives from Bangladesh at this global event, having qualified as Summit Diplomats and finalists of Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge 2015. The Conrad Foundation is an advocate of innovative minds and ideas, and it was founded by Nancy Conrad, in memory of her husband Pete Conrad, astronaut of the Apollo 12 mission and the third man to walk on the moon. Around 50 teams from different parts of the world participated at this year’s summit, and Team Magpie Robin represented Bangladesh in the Aerospace and Aviation Category. 

Their project, “Staticos”, was a flight safety mechanism where the electrostatic charge generated on the surface of aeroplane is harnessed to ensure maximum safety. The two online rounds included (i) a video presentation explaining the project and (ii) a complete portfolio on Staticos. The project eventually got selected as one of the 10 semi-finalists in the Aerospace and Aviation Category. 

The team had to present their project in front of the judges with a six minute presentation called the “Power Pitch”. The adjudicator panel consisted of engineers, NASA scientists, investors, doctors and other experts, who commended them for their effort. They also went on a tour around the Kennedy Space Center. A session was arranged with astronaut Don Thomas who shared his experience of the grinding training sessions astronauts have to go through, and his mission to the International Space Station. The participants were given the chance to talk to him personally. Earlier on, all the teams gathered for an ice breaking session when people from different countries got to know each other. Later, they had the chance to see Atlantis, which is NASA’s most successful space shuttle, having done 33 missions. They were shown the Vehicle Assembly Building which is the largest single-story building in the world. 

A closing ceremony was held on April 11. The best team from each category was named the ‘Pete Conrad Scholar’, and Team Magpie Robin from Bangladesh was beaten to it by the South Korean Youth Society for Aerospace in the Aerospace and Aviation category. The prizes were handed out by Nancy Conrad and the Director of the Kennedy Space Center, Robert Cabana. 

Labib Tazwar Rahman spoke for his team-mates when he said, “Reaching this point was tough since we had to do most of our work in the middle of SSC exams. But it was worth it given the prize was presenting our idea at the NASA Kennedy Space Center.”

The team was accompanied by Sudeb Chandra Paul, Asst. Professor at St. Joseph Higher Secondary School. This trip was financed by Farm Fresh Milk.