The 2009 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards, a night at Hearst Castle
Last Thursday night 250 people – a mix of Hearst staffers, NASA engineers, solar power CEOs, PhDs from Harvard and MIT, techno savants and invited guests of the media – gathered at the Hearst Castle in midtown, New York for the 5th Annual Breakthrough Awards to celebrate 20 of the best innovations and gadgets of 2009.
If XBox’s Natal, a computer based vision system that tracks players’ movements, was the most popular gadget of the night, Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST and DEKA Research, was the man of the night, there to receive PM’s annual Leadership Award for his revolutionary medical inventions. He wore his customary Canadian tuxedo and proud mother on his arm, but this time he brought along the whole family– a New England-y bunch with bow ties and wide smiles. While he gave a long winded speech thanking Hearst for their support, his DEKA Research Employees zoomed around on iBot wheel chairs.
On display in the Atrium were several of Kamen’s contributions including the DEKA Luke Arm, his Slingshot water purification machine and two FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) robotic teams with their moon rock gathering, soccer playing robots.
Amid an open bar, tables of prosciutto, formage spreads and veggie towers, gadget loving geeks rubbed shoulders, moon walked in front of Natal and spread their innovative spirit.
It’s impossible to overstate just how important it is to celebrate events like the PM Breakthrough Awards. If we are to transcend our current state of poverty, disease and scarcity bound economics and emerge from this recession as anything resembling a more creative and productive society, the scientists and engineers celebrated at the Hearst Castle are going to be a huge part of that necessary transformation. Whether its because of inventions like Harvard researcher, Aviva Presser-Aiden’s fuel cell which provides power to poor regions in Africa from microbes in the dirt, or Andalay’s plug and play solar panels, these men and women deserve our applause and our gratitude.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.