The astronauts on board the International Space Station have been successful in their first attempts at growing food of their own, but as cool as red lettuce grown in space is, it’s certainly not enough to make a delicious meal with. But an initiative from NASA’s HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) program has the agency taking advice from some teenage culinary stars on how to spice up the ISS menu.
Through the HUNCH program, NASA partners with schools to provide students an opportunity to put their stamp on some of the products populating the ISS. For the HUNCH Culinary Challenge, 21 teams of high school chefs from around the United States are competing to create a recipe that will pass muster with a panel of discerning judges. The winning dish will be sent up to the ISS and served to astronauts.
This year, the teams are being asked to make a vegetable entrée that will be both nutritious (300 to 500 calories, 300 mg max sodium per serving, 8 grams of sugar, 3 or more grams of fiber) and meet a couple of other key requirements — namely, it has to “process well for flight and for use in microgravity.” A couple of the teams recently got to have a preliminary taste test at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia with judges that included ISS alumni Charlie Camarda.
The contenders will ultimately be narrowed down to 10 finalists, who will head to the Johnson Space Center in Houston in April to make and serve their dish in the Center’s Space Food Systems Laboratory.
Last year’s Culinary Challenge winner, Jamaican rice and beans with coconut milk, was cooked up by five students from Phoebus High School in Hampton, Va.
First, here’ a warning: I’m about to brag about my child but I promise it’s for a good reason. My 13-year-old son Zachary earned more this past weekend than most of today’s recent college graduates can hope to make in a week. He’s also his own boss.
Zachary builds websites and not just for his friends. He’s developed ecommerce sites for companies that sell everything from jewelry to shaving cream. Other clients, including the operator of a menopause-counseling blog and a professional race car driver, have hired him to design their blogs.
Yes, I’m proud of his success. But I’d be just as supportive if his company, ZachsWebDesigns.com, were struggling. That’s because at this stage of his life, Zachary’s business has more value as an educational resource than as a source of income. In fact, I’m not ashamed to admit that he is learning more in his professional life than he is in school.
Scandalous, right? Actually, no. At 13, Zachary has learned how to converse with clients, whether through email, by phone or in person. On any given day, he’s thinking about monthly maintenance contracts and recurring revenue streams. If his site goes down, he calls the web host not his daddy.
No, I’m not saying he should forget about high school and head to Silicon Valley. But let’s not pretend that the kinds of skills he’s developing as a young businessperson are any less critical to having a fulfilling, prosperous life than what he’s learning in the classroom. Why should he wait until after college to learn the ins and outs of the business world?
He’s already come to realize the enormous value of networking. He was lucky enough to attend a Maverick1000 networking event this summer and connect with many of my mastermind friends. Being surrounded by a group of successful, generous businesspeople changed the way he viewed connections. The meeting taught him lessons that most young people don’t learn until they’re well into their 20s or 30s — if ever.
But the most important thing he’s learned as an entrepreneur is how to identify his passions and pursue them without hesitation. And it’s this skill that I would encourage most parents to cultivate in their kids.
If your child has an idea for a business, let him or her give it a go. If the child succeeds, then great. If he or she fails, even better. Indeed, teaching a child to not fear failure is one of the best ways for parents to prepare their kids for success in life.
Before Zachary started building websites, he tried his hand at dog walking, lawn mowing, shoveling snow and an ecommerce site that never took off. With every unsuccessful venture, he learned from his mistakes. It was just a matter of time before one of his passions paid off.
Without a doubt, his having a dad who’s an entrepreneur doesn’t hurt. We talk business all the time. But whenever he asks for help, the first thing I say is “What do you think?” I’ve learned that I need to let Zachary do it his way first, whether he succeeds or fails.
I’m not discounting the value of formal education. Zachary has an A average and loves to socialize with his school friends. But I wouldn’t for a minute let him think that his academic work is any more important than his professional responsibilities. He rushes home from school many days to do his homework, so he can get to his real work, which as far as he’s concerned isn’t work at all.
Many parents are appalled by this view. “Schoolwork should always come first,” they insist. “What about college?” As they see it, disagreeing with the accepted wisdom about education is tantamount to child abuse.
But formal education isn’t always the bargain that many people pretend it is. In the case of college, the sticker price is about $200,000 and rising. That doesn’t include the opportunity cost of spending four years insulated from the pressures and demands of adult life. Plus, there’s no guarantee that a job will await today’s college students once they get a diploma.
For many young people, college might provide the path to a satisfying life. But for those like Zachary, who are already moving forward with their careers, it’s not obvious that four years of dorm life, term papers and multiple-choice exams are in their best interest.
In the same four years, an entrepreneurial young person could be earning money, gaining valuable life experience and building his or her network. When you consider the costs, it would be a disservice to today’s youth to not consider if skipping college might be a better investment.
If you’re genuinely concerned about educating your kids, nurture their entrepreneurial side. Help them find an idea that ignites their imagination and let them find a way to turn that idea into a business. Give them the tools and emotional support they need but don’t hold their hand. And be ready to let them fail. It’s the best preparation for success.
Business isn’t just for adults anymore. The exciting world of entrepreneurship has recently seen the likes of a 13-year-old clothing designer, a 16-year-old online gift boutique owner, and a 16-year-old jewelry designer, just to name a few.
If you’re a teen with an idea that could blossom into a business, there’s no reason why you should wait until you’re older. No matter what your age, the time is now. Here are five keys to entrepreneurial success that can help ensure a bright future for your ventures.
1. Get mentored.
Finding a mentor is at the top of the list because it happens to be very important. Even experienced adults look for mentors. How many business savvy people are there in your family and extended family? How about friends of your family, or adults you might be connected with on Facebook and Twitter? You may find that there are dozens of people you can come to for advice and crucial role modeling. If you feel that your circle of friends and family is lacking in business mentors, consider asking them if they could introduce you (either online or in person) to people that could mentor you.
2. Sharpen your communication skills.
Much of what you do in business involves getting people to believe in you and your product or service. So as a young entrepreneur, you’ll need to communicate — a lot. Both in written form and verbally. Being able to give a speech or a presentation will greatly benefit you and your business, as will blogging clearly and convincingly about your product. It even pays to be really good at conversing one-on-one. Entrepreneurs who are personable and likeable gain trust faster than those who seem aloof.
3. Earn credibility.
Your youth can be a very good thing. Young people often have fresh ideas and approaches, along with the advantage of learning from successes and failures early in life. However, being young also comes with a greater need to prove yourself. People sometimes question whether or not they should take a teenager’s business seriously. So it’s your job to prove to the world that you are serious about your business, and that your product or service is worth their respect.
One way to boost your own credibility is to be strategic with your personal branding efforts on social media. Regularly post topics related to your particular interest in entrepreneurship, and blog frequently about any ideas you have about doing things differently or better.
To boost the credibility of your product or service, you’ll need to show potential customers the value it can bring them. Whether by blogging about your product’s benefits, demonstrating your product on YouTube, or even letting people use your product for free, find ways to prove its worth. The longer you stick to your entrepreneurial ventures, and the more positive reviews and testimonials you gain, the more credibility you’ll earn.
4. Find ways to manage your stress
With homework, extracurricular activities and family challenges, stress is common among teens. And when entrepreneurship is added to the mix, you’re even more susceptible. Uncontrolled stress and anxiety will not only hinder your schoolwork and entrepreneurial ventures, but it will also damage your emotional and psychological well being. Along with the responsibilities you’re giving yourself as a teenage entrepreneur, it’s crucial that you find outlets or hobbies to enjoy. Sometimes, a Saturday of rest or hanging out with friends can do wonders for your stressed and frazzled mind.
If worse comes to worst, and you simply can’t get relief from your stress, it may be best to scale back or postpone your entrepreneurial efforts. Nothing is worth sacrificing your schoolwork or your mental health.
5. Innovate when possible.
Chances are, there are going to be businesses out there similar to yours. That shouldn’t discourage you from your entrepreneurial ventures. It should, however, encourage you to find a way to innovate something about your business. Do some research about your competition. Are their businesses lacking in anything? Are there gaps between what they offer and what the customer needs? If so, try to find ways for your business to fill those gaps. Even if your innovations seem small and insignificant, go forward with them. Oftentimes, it’s the little things that customers love about their favorite brands and businesses. Also, remember that when two companies are similar to each other, customers favor the one with the best customer service.