About Judging

The Spirit of Innovation Challenge recruits from among the best in business, industry, research and academia worldwide. Throughout the three phases of judging, each project is reviewed by a minimum of five judges with expertise in the challenge category.

The Spirit of Innovation Challenge team provides training and documentation to assist in the judging process.

Why Be A Judge?

  • Provide participating students with your specialized industry knowledge and experience
  • Help students improve their products and services through scoring comments
  • Participate in selecting the next Pete Conrad Scholars
  • Inspire students to pursue STEM careers
  • Receive the satisfaction of knowing you are encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs and helping a young person earn their own Moonshot

A Judge’s Responsibility

  • Commit to judging the minimum projects in your challenge category of expertise
  • Provide thoughtful, constructive and age-appropriate feedback for each submitted project
  • Complete submission review and comments prior to the judging deadline
  • Agree to confidentiality terms that protect the intellectual property of our students

Time Commitment
The judging phases for the General Entry and Semi-Finalist rounds are approximately two weeks long. During these rounds, all judging takes place electronically through the online judging system. Each judge should anticipate providing 8-10 hours to review a minimum of 10 abstracts as a general entry judge and 5 projects as a semi-finalist judge. Please plan to spend 30 minutes to 1 hour for abstracts and 2 hours for full proposals. If your schedule can accommodate additional review, you are invited to provide feedback on additional projects.

The judging for the Finalist round takes place at the Innovation Summit.  The executive director of the Spirit of Innovation Challenge will issue personalized invitations to selected panel judges.

Who Are Our Judges?
The Spirit of Innovation Challenge is fortunate to have many esteemed professionals and innovators serve as judges. During the most recent Innovation Summit, some of our judges included:


- Chris Cohan, Sigma Xi; retired aerospace engineer for NASA; colleague of Pete Conrad

- Jim McClelland, VP, Mission Assurance, Skybox Imaging Inc.

- Rick Kwan, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Founding Member Silicon Valley Space Center; Principle Computer Scientist, American Academy of Aeronautics

- Joe Rothenberg, Conrad Foundation, Board President; Former Director, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

- Laurel Stell, PhD, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

- Larry Young, Code AUA – Aeromechanics Branch, Flight Vehicle Research and Technology Division, NASA Ames Research Center

-Michelle Cadieux, MBA CEO, Engineer, Creative Communications/ Community Safety Programs. 

Clean Energy

- Ronnie Gross, Conrad Foundation, Board Member; President, Gross Family Foundation

- Tom Ingersoll, Conrad Foundation Board Member; CEO, Skybox Imaging

- Song Jung, Conrad Foundation Board Member; Partner, McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP

- Richard Kidd, PhD, Sigma Xi; Planetary Chemist and Astrobiology Group, Jet Propulsion Laboratory – NASA

- John Karcz, CS, Sigma Xi; Planetary Systems Branch, NASA AMES Research Center

- Cathy Stumpenhouse, Sigma Xi; Senior Geologist, LEED AP/QSD/QSP, Bechtel

Health & Nutrition

- Dan Bena, Senior Director of Sustainable Development, Pepsico

- Richard Black, Vice President, Nutrition, Kraft Foods Global
- Sharon Fleming, PhD, American Society of Nutrition; Professor, Department of Nutritional Science & Toxicology, University of California, Berkeley

- Matt Linton, GCIH, EZ2C, IT Security Operations Lead, NASA Ames Research Center

- Gwo-Shing Sun, PhD, American Society of Nutrition; Staff Research Scientist, Lockheed Martin Exploration and Science, NASA Ames Research Center

- Jeff Smith, PhD, SCR Branch Chief, Space Biosciences Division, NASA Ames Research Center

We rely on our Challenge Partners to provide expert mentors and judges. If you are not associated with our challenge partners and would like to participate as a judge contact Jennifer Fotherby at jen.fotherby (at) conradawards.org.