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Lindsey Yu '18 a Finalist in the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge

Last summer, as a student at Cooper Union's Summer STEM program in Manhattan, Lindsey Yu '18 came up with an innovative idea to take the guesswork out of gardening: She developed sophisticated farming/gardening software and an algorithm that uses a sensor probe to collect environmental conditions in order to determine what plants will thrive in a particular location, thereby optimizing the farming and gardening process. Working with a team of three other students at different schools in the New York area, she called her invention PlantSTEM.

At the end of the STEM program, she filed a provisional patent application on her idea. Knowing that she needed funding and investors in order to nurture her creation into a real business, she began searching for entrepreneurial contests for students. That's when she came upon an annual innovation and entrepreneurial competition known as the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge. She submitted her idea, and in November, she learned that her team had advanced to the semifinals. "This meant that we had to draft a professional, intensive business plan and make a pitch video, in the hopes of making it to the finals," she explains. Over winter break, with the help of Upper School financial literacy teacher Mr. Woody Garavente, who worked with her on the business plan, she and her team created this video.

"Mr. Garavente, to whom I was introduced through lacrosse, provided me with insight when I was developing my business plan. He really helped me to envision how I could manage and fund my startup in the future," she says. "I also spoke to (Upper School biology teacher) Dr. Kirkhart, (Director of Educational and Information Technology) Mr. Burkhart, and (Upper School computer science teacher) Mr. Orndorff over the summer about my invention while I was developing it, and they offered to make themselves available to me if I needed help using Pingry's labs or 3D printer."

Recently, she learned that PlantSTEM made it even further in the competition, advancing to the final round and joining the top 10% of all international entries in the Energy and Environment category of the challenge (her team was one of 12 selected finalists in the category).

As finalists, in April she and her team will head to the Innovation Summit at the Kennedy Space Center—the "launch pad for breakthrough technologies," according to the Challenge's website, where she will deliver a 10-minute pitch to a panel of live judges that will include leading entrepreneurs, government officials, and scientists. "We will be competing against teams from all across the world for awards from sponsors that may include seed funding grants, investment opportunities, patent support, business services, and scholarships," Lindsey says.

We wish Lindsey the best of luck at the competition!

To read more about the origins of Lindsey's PlantSTEM project at the Cooper Union Summer STEM program last year, click here.

To learn more about the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge, click here.

Photo: Lindsey working in a Cooper Union lab last summer, developing PlantSTEM.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer,