SOURCE: Popular Mechanics

October 15, 2008 11:29 ET

POPULAR MECHANICS Recognizes Life-Changing Innovations With the 2008 Breakthrough Awards

MIT's Amy Smith Takes Top Honors With Breakthrough Leadership Award; Product Winners Include Amazon, Microsoft, Intel and Infiniti

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - October 15, 2008) - Tonight, POPULAR MECHANICS will announce the winners of its fourth annual Breakthrough Awards at a ceremony at Hearst Tower in New York City. Sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Breakthrough Awards celebrate innovations poised to change the world, and the personalities behind them.

"This year's roster of winners is especially diverse, from high-tech winners such as the 300-mpg Aptera vehicle of the future, to low-tech innovations like rugged wheelchairs for the developing world," said James B. Meigs, editor-in-chief of POPULAR MECHANICS. "With the energy crisis escalating and the increased focus on climate change and the need for conservation, it is especially rewarding to showcase winners who are making breakthrough contributions in these fields. These winners are applying brilliant design and engineering to improve the lives of others."

"As a company that makes innovative medicines to help patients prevail against serious disease, Bristol-Myers Squibb is proud to support this year's Breakthrough Award winners," said Elliott Sigal, Bristol-Myers Squibb's chief scientific officer and president, research and development. "We applaud their commitment to improving the lives of others through novel science, technology and engineering."

The winners of the 2008 POPULAR MECHANICS Breakthrough Awards are:

Breakthrough Leadership Award

--  Amy B. Smith, senior lecturer, the Massachusetts Institute of
    Technology:  A visionary who designs practical, affordable technology to
    address challenges in the developing world, Smith has won multiple
    engineering awards for her work on ways to purify water, improve medical
    care and ease the workload of rural women.   An inspiration to students and
    volunteers who dedicate their time to improve the standard of living in
    Haiti, Ghana, India and other countries, she is leading a movement to
    tackle complex problems with simple technology. Smith will deliver the
    keynote remarks at the awards ceremony.

Next Generation Award

--  Rudy Roy, Ben Sexson, Daniel Oliver, and Charles Pyott, recent
    graduates of the California Institute of Technology and the Art Center
    College of Design:  These undergrads have transformed inexpensive bikes
    into wheelchairs for people in the developing world.  The four students
    created a prototype wheelchair from two recycled mountain bikes.  The
    result is a chair that is practical, durable and affordable and -- unlike
    most wheelchairs donated overseas -- repairable at any local bike shop.

Breakthrough Innovator Awards: Celebrating Innovation in Science and Technology

--  Jack D. Newman, Kinkead Reiling, Neil Renninger, scientists and
    founders of Amyris Biotechnologies:  Clean, renewable diesel fuel from
    microbes can alleviate the dual problems of global warming and petroleum
    shortages. Amyris has doctored the genetic makeup of garden-variety
    microbes to create new microorganisms programmed to churn out hydrocarbons
    that are chemically identical to diesel fuel.
--  Greg Allgood, Director of the Children's Safe Drinking Water Program,
    Procter & Gamble public health specialist:  P&G's miracle powder, PUR,
    creates clean and clear water by removing silt and other solid
    contaminants, as well as killing bacteria and viruses. The inexpensive
    powder, which is delivered in business-card-size packets, is saving lives
    in poor countries around the world. Now it is being introduced to the
    United States for use by emergency response professionals and individuals.
--  Lonnie Johnson, Johnson ElectroMechanical Systems: Johnson, the
    inventor of the Super Soaker squirt gun, has created a revolutionary
    prototype that uses heat to generate electricity employing hydrogen and an
    ion-exchange process.  Unlike conventional engines, Johnson's prototype has
    no moving parts, which means no friction and fewer mechanical failures --
    and the hydrogen doesn't need to be replenished. His concept provides hope
    for a major advance in sustainable generation of electricity.
--  Barry Goldstein, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Ed Sedivy, Lockheed
    Martin Space Systems; Peter Smith, University of Arizona: In 2008, the
    Phoenix Mars Mission established a momentous milestone in exploration,
    confirming the presence of water on another planet. The discovery made
    future human exploration of the planet far easier to contemplate and plan
--  Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony, founders of Aptera:  Aptera is
    introducing a line of ultra-high-mileage eco-cars to be priced around
    $30,000.  The company radically reduced weight and drag, turning to a three-
    wheel design to create comfortable, real-world vehicles -- ones that pass
    standard car safety tests. The all-electric Typ-1e has an estimated 120-
    mile range, while the plug-in hybrid Typ-1h will get 300 miles per gallon
    on trips of 100 miles or more, and should always stay above 130 mpg.
--  Mehmet Toner, biomedical engineer at Harvard-MIT Division of Health
    Sciences and Technology:  It is extremely difficult to detect a
    metastasizing tumor before symptoms show up -- and that seriously delays
    treatment.  Toner has designed a new device for detecting circulating tumor
    cells (CTC). The business-card-size silicon chip is coated with antibodies
    that attract CTCs.  In the short term, the chip will give doctors instant
    feedback on their patients. In the future, it may lead to a cheap and
    simple cancer-screening test for the general population.  The chips
    currently cost about $250 to produce; the future mass-produced version
    could cost as little as $5.
--  Charles E. Andraka, engineer at Sandia National Laboratories; Bruce
    Osborn, president of Stirling Energy Systems:  A million homes may be
    powered by solar thermal technology by 2015.  A system developed by
    Stirling Energy and Sandia uses mirrored dishes measuring almost 40 feet
    across to concentrate the sun's heat onto a Stirling engine and generate
    grid-ready power. The team set a record of 31.25 percent efficiency in
    2008, and now SES has begun building 70,000 dishes in California. The
    installations will nearly double the amount of commercial solar power
    generated in the United States.
--  Andrew Tschesnok and Jonathan Rand, founders of Organic Motion:
    Organic Motion's technology enables computers to see people and understand
    human motion without requiring subjects to wear tracking devices of any
    kind. The system digitizes the exact motion to within sub-millimeter
    accuracy and at a speed of 120 frames per second, fast enough to recognize
    the movements of professional athletes. Organic Motion's advancement in
    computer vision has extensive impacts for medicine, sports, security, and
    certainly for a new generation of interactive video games.

Breakthrough Product Awards: Setting Benchmarks in Design, Creativity and Engineering

--  M-Spector Digital Inspection Camera:  Home repair has never been so
    easy.  Instead of cutting walls open to diagnose a problem, a DIYer can use
    the camera's 17-mm-wide 2x zoom lens, which beams behind-the-wall
    reconnaissance to a 2.5-inch LCD.  The camera provides 15 hours of battery
    life to find leaks, trace wiring and more.  $259,
--  Spore:  From the mastermind behind EA's The Sims comes one of the most
    widely anticipated video games ever, one that traces the evolution of a
    species from single cell to the conquest of space. Spore relies on a
    process called procedural animation to allow players' creations to interact
    in utterly fresh and unpredictable ways.  $49,
--  Livescribe Pulse Smartpen:  An integrated microphone and a
    revolutionary method for audio retrieval make this pen a productive way to
    digitize penmanship for PC perusal.  To play a clip back, the user simply
    taps the written notes and the pen automatically cues up the appropriate
    audio.  It can even take on complex tasks such as language translation.
--  Potenco PCG1 Power Generator:  A pull-cord power generator, the PCG1
    creates electricity for portable gadgets with far greater efficiency than
    hand-cranked devices.  It weighs 14 ounces, has an internal mini-USB output
    jack, and can convert 2 minutes of effort into 40 minutes of cellphone talk
    time.  $99,
--  Intel Atom Processor:  Brilliantly efficient and a marvel of
    miniaturization, Intel's new low-power Atom processor brings PC-like
    capabilities and an uncompromised Internet experience to a new class of
    handheld Mobile Internet Devices, as well as simple, affordable mobile and
    desktop machines known as netbooks and nettops.
--  Craftsman Nextec Multi-Saw:  Taking power tool versatility to a higher
    level, the Nextec Multi-Saw is a 12-volt lithium-ion battery powered hybrid
    of a jigsaw and a reciprocating saw.  It is small enough to get into tight
    spots, but powerful enough for tough cutting, with an adjustable speed of
    up to 2000 strokes per minute.  $150 (kit includes: a drill, two batteries,
    a charger, two blades, a drill bit and a work light),
--  Microsoft Photosynth:  This free, remarkable software analyzes a
    multitude of photos to create a browsable 3D model by identifying
    overlapping points in the images.  The result is a fresh way to organize
    and share photography -- opening up new possibilities for a 180-year-old
    art form.
--  Amazon Kindle:  This e-book reader proves that digital paper can be a
    real alternative to the printed page. The Kindle can be read for hours
    without causing eyestrain -- or running out of batteries. And it has a
    built-in high-speed EVDO antenna.  The Kindle connects itself to Sprint's
    high-speed network to download books, blogs or digital versions of
    newspapers wirelessly from nearly anywhere. $359,
--  Infiniti Around View Monitor:  A new level of automotive safety has
    appeared, as the Around View allows drivers to see 360 degrees around their
    vehicle while they park.  With multiple ultra-wide-angle high-resolution
    cameras, the images are synthesized for the driver to provide a "bird's-eye
    view" on the navigation screen. This advanced system will likely save
    lives, especially those of young children.  It is optional on new Infiniti
    models, such as the EX35 and the FX35/FX50. Included in packages from
--  Caroma Profile Smart Dual Flush Toilet:  Graywater systems can sharply
    reduce water usage in the home without any sacrifice in convenience. This
    clever system elegantly routes sink water used when washing hands into the
    tank of the toilet.  It's a way to bring smart, green design into everyday
    life. Currently available in Australia only.  $409,

Criteria and Evaluation

In selecting the candidates and winners of the 2008 Breakthrough Awards program, the editors of POPULAR MECHANICS (PM) canvassed a large range of experts and academics to come up with a list of worthy nominees. Taking into account their findings and the input of contributing editors and outside experts, they then reviewed the nominations to choose the winners.

A complete report of the Breakthrough Awards will be published in the November issue of POPULAR MECHANICS (on newsstands Oct. 14, 2008). High-resolution images of the winners as well as full conference coverage will be available upon request and at


POPULAR MECHANICS ( is a magazine that helps readers master the modern world. In addition to providing hands-on coverage of personal technology, cars and home improvement, PM reports in-depth on the science and technology behind major issues -- including such stories as disaster planning, hydrogen fuel and other energy alternatives, military expenditures and digital privacy. Each month, nearly 9 million readers turn for advice and news to the magazine's editors and contributors, who include Jay Leno, astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Tom Jones and roboticist Daniel H. Wilson. In addition to its U.S. flagship, POPULAR MECHANICS publishes nine editions around the world. POPULAR MECHANICS is published by Hearst Magazines, a unit of Hearst Corporation ( and one of the world's largest publishers of monthly magazines, with nearly 200 editions around the world, including 18 U.S. titles and 20 magazines in the United Kingdom, published through its wholly owned subsidiary, The National Magazine Company Limited. Hearst reaches more adults than any other publisher of monthly magazines (75.6 million total adults, according to MRI, Spring 2008).


Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to extend and enhance human life.

Contact Information