Recently, Village Vikings Olivia B., Omar I., Divyesh K., Roberto M. and coach Meg Hennessy competed in the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge which is a science and business competition founded by Nancy Conrad in honor of her late husband, naval aviator and astronaut, Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. This international competition had over 2,200 teams competing from over 17 countries this year, with just 37 teams making it to the final round of competition at the summit.
They competed in the Transforming Education Through Technology Category sponsored by SMART Technologies, excited about the chance to solve a problem that they encountered as students. The team pitched the idea for VoxLion, a speech coaching application that uses AI to analyze a student's presentation and give targeted, meaningful feedback on aspects such as their intonation, eye contact, and body language in order to help them grow their presentation skills and confidence. “We’re all students and we go through the struggles of giving presentations. There are tools for writing and tools that help with knowledge assessment but nothing exists yet that helps perfect a presentation with targeted feedback,” Omar explained.
For the foursome, this was not their first collaborative group pitch. Olivia, Omar, Divyesh and Roberto met last year, when they formed a team to enter the Offshore Technology Challenge (OTC). They designed a self-diagnosing, self-healing offshore platform to reduce carbon that won third place and this year, their OTC pitch for Enhanced Oil Recovery on an offshore platform took first place!
Last summer, amidst their varying internships, the team discovered the Conrad Challenge and met frequently to develop their idea and presentation. They credit their success to teamwork, relaying that each person played an important role. "Roberto was good at financing, estimating things like how long it would take to be profitable. I focused on marketing,” Olivia recalls, “and wondered how we could make ourselves unique to competitors. Omar looked at the feasibility and technological side of things. Divyesh was amazing at video editing and 2 videos were needed for the competition. We filled in all the gaps for where we needed to have expertise.”
Their hard work and collaborative efforts paid off and the team, called SpeakEasy, won first place in their category and were named Pete Conrad Scholars. They also won the Gemini Award for Distinguished Innovation from the US Navy which went to the team that "best demonstrates the Navy characteristics of teamwork, innovation, and hard work at the 2019 Conrad Foundation Innovation Summit." In addition to winning thousands in pro-bono services to help make VoxLion a reality, each team member also won $15,000 scholarships per year to both Clarkson University and to Thomas Jefferson University. This summer, the team has been invited on an all-expenses paid trip to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in Philadelphia. We can’t wait to see what these collaborative entrepreneurs will design together next.