I’ve been attending Space Frontier Foundation’s New Space 2011 Conference at NASA Ames. Most of the almost 400 attendees are involved with commercial space – that is privately owned companies like SpaceX, Moon Express, XCor, OpenLuna and/or educational organizations like Students for Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) or Space Travelers Emporium.
But one of the highlights was the business plan competition held yesterday and which, because of a conflict, I missed. Everyone I talked to asked what I thought of the HS girls’ pitch. (Mind you – most of the presenters were a whole lot older). They were kind enough to sit down with me for an interview.
These teenage sisters- Shannon (15) and Mikayla (16) Diesch, co-founders of Solar Flare– had blown everyone away with their product and their pitch for an energy bar that feeds the brain as well as the body. The bar was originally designed to be used as a supplement for space travel. They had come up with the idea to compete for the Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation Award in the Space Nutrition Category (which they won in April 2010). Based on their success – and the bar’s being flown on Space Shuttle Endeavour the girls decided they wanted to commercialize it which required reformulation to make it suitable for mass production.
So what’s so different about it? The main source of nourishment for the brain is Omega-3 with DHA being the most beneficial. Most products with Omega-3 contain ALA of which only 30% is converted to DHA. They wanted to include DHA in the product. The problem is that it tastes and smells like fish. Not exactly a yummy addition to a snack bar. The trick was finding a way to isolate the DHA and stabilize it so it could be included in a food bar that would have a shelf life of more than a couple of days. They experimented repeatedly until they discovered it. They now have a patent pending.
Both girls are interested in math and science. Self-described “nerds”, they’re calling the commercial product the Nerd Bar. In addition to being smart, articulate, and totally delightful they are traveling around to speak to schools encouraging students to pursue STEM education. It’s something they believe is important and they (with their parents’ help- driving them around the country to engagements) are using their success to inspire others.
So here’s to a couple of innovative entrepreneurial sisters who are succeeding at every level.