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From a Jogging Robot to Pain-Free Limbs for Amputees

The Breakthrough Awards are featured in the November issue, on newsstands October 16 Click here for high-resolution version

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Oct 1, 2012) -  Today, POPULAR MECHANICS announced the winners of its eighth annual Breakthrough Awards, which recognize the innovators and products that have dramatically advanced the fields of technology, medicine, space exploration, automotive design, environmental engineering and more. The honorees will be celebrated at an invitation-only conference and gala awards ceremony at Hearst Tower in New York City on October 4, and will also be recognized in the November issue of POPULAR MECHANICS, available on newsstands on October 16. 

This year's honorees include Elon Musk, renowned CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, who will be given the Breakthrough Leadership Award for his pioneering contributions to space exploration, environmental engineering and the Internet. Katherine Bomkamp will receive the Next Generation Award for her Pain-Free Socket, a prosthesis that eases phantom limb pain experienced by millions of amputees. NASA's Voyager 1, the longest-operating and most distant spacecraft in history, will receive the Mechanical Lifetime Achievement Award. Other honorees include the scientists and engineers behind a high-efficiency oil skimmer, the world's fastest bipedal robot and a laser camera that shoots around corners.

"We are excited to recognize this year's list of incredible honorees for their role in shaping the future," says James B. Meigs, editor-in-chief of POPULAR MECHANICS. "From a featherweight metal to the world's fastest and most electrically efficient supercomputer, this year's winners embody the creative spirit that the Breakthrough Awards were founded upon."

Past recipients of the Breakthrough Awards include James Cameron, genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter, efficiency expert Amory Lovins, inventor and FIRST Robotics founder Dean Kamen, and humanitarian engineer Amy Smith. 

POPULAR MECHANICS' Breakthrough Awards are given in two categories: innovators, whose inventions will make the world smarter, safer and more efficient in the years to come, and products, which are setting benchmarks in design and engineering today. The 2012 winners are:


Leadership Award: Elon Musk - Musk made his fortune as a co-founder of PayPal; he now serves as CEO of SpaceX, the most aggressive private space exploration/travel company in the business. The company's Dragon space capsule and Falcon 9 rocket successfully docked with the International Space Station this year, winning a contract with NASA. Musk is also CEO of Tesla Motors which, with the Model S, has just launched the most advanced electric vehicle ever made.

Next Generation Award: Pain-Free Limb Socket, Katherine Bomkamp - Bomkamp engineered a prosthesis that eases phantom limb pain, a phenomenon that causes pain or discomfort in a person's nonexistent limb and plagues an estimated 80% of the world's 10 million amputees.

Mechanical Lifetime Achievement Award: Voyager 1 & 2, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Launched on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 has traveled farther into space than any other manmade craft.

Grooved Disc Oil Skimmer: Jeff Cantrell, Stewart Ellis, Don Johnson, Brian Orr, Jerome Riley, Paul Smith, Charles Storey, Donald Wilson (Elastec/American Marine) - This breakthrough in oil cleanup technology allows crews to skim spilled oil off the water's surface at a rate that quadruples the previous industry standard.

MABEL the Jogging Robot: Jessy Grizzle (University of Michigan); Jonathan Hurst (Oregon State University) - The fastest bipedal robot, MABEL can run a 9-minute mile. Potential applications include exoskeletons that enable wheelchair-bound people to walk again or that give rescuers super-human abilities, and powered prosthetic limbs that behave like their biological counterparts.

Ultralight Micro-Lattice: Julia R. Greer (CalTech); Alan Jacobson, William Carter, Toby Schaedler (HRL Laboratories); Lorenzo Valdevit (University of California, Irvine) - Nearly 100 times lighter than Styrofoam, this metal's incredible strength and ability to absorb energy make it potentially useful for applications ranging from architecture, batteries and mechanical components.

Self-Regulating Tire: Massimo Di Giacomo Russo, John Kotanides Jr., and the Air Maintenance Technology Team (Goodyear) - Regulates its own air pressure by employing a pressurized internal tube with inlet and outlet valves.

CORNAR Camera: Ramesh Raskar, Moungi Bawendi (MIT); Andreas Velten (University of Wisconsin at Madison) - By using laser backscatter and advanced data analysis, this technology can bounce a laser off of walls or other non-reflective surfaces and detect an image of what is around a corner.

Blue Gene/Q Sequoia Supercomputer: Bruce Goodwin, Michael McCoy, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Michael Rosenfeld, IBM - Officially the fastest and most electrically efficient supercomputer on earth.

Brain-Computer Interface: Michael Boninger, Jennifer Collinger, Alan Degenhart, Andrew Schwartz Elizabeth Tyler-Kabara, Wei Wang (University of Pittsburgh) - A grid of electrodes placed on the surface of the brain and interfaced with a computer, allowing Tim Hemmes and other paralyzed individuals to control robotic arms with their thoughts.


Microsoft Surface + Windows 8 - The new operating system "erases the distinction" between tablets and PCs, combining touchscreen gesture control with the traditional mouse and keyboard. Surface tablets will have keyboards built into protective covers, and the Pro model offers the full versatility of a laptop.

Dow PowerHouse Solar Shingles - Solar panels that structurally integrate into the roof of your house with an easy and affordable install.

The North Face Powder Guide ABS Vest and Backpack - A low-profile vest and backpack with airbags that inflate to help a victim stay on top of cascading debris during an avalanche.

AutoDesk 123D - A suite of free, easy-to-use consumer CAD tools that allow anyone to create, shape, share and even print 3D virtual models.

Lehr Propane-Powered Outboard Engine - Lehr brings their environmentally friendly propane-powered engines to water sports with 2- and 5-horsepower outboard engines.

Ford 1-Liter EcoBoost Engine - An efficiency breakthrough, Ford's 3-cylinder engine gets 123 horsepower out of a tiny one-liter displacement.

Cubify Cube 3D Printer - A desktop 3D printer that allows users to print toys, jewelry and other plastic objects in just a few hours.

Lytro Camera - Captures light from all directions, allowing a user to change the focus to a new area of the image or even make it stereoscopic -- all after the photograph has been taken.

GM Crash-Avoidance System - This practical and cost-effective single-camera vision system warns users of possible collisions and unintentional lane departures.

Leap by Leap Motion - This gesture-control system allows users to control onscreen activity with their hands, offering a far more precise system than Microsoft Kinect.

Criteria and Evaluation
In selecting the candidates and winners of the 2012 Breakthrough Awards, the editors of POPULAR MECHANICS canvassed a wide range of experts, including dozens of past Breakthrough Award winners, in fields ranging from aerospace and robotics to medicine and energy. PM editors tested hundreds of products in a wide range of categories throughout the year to arrive at the true game-changers for the Breakthrough product awards.

More information on this year's honorees, as well as high-resolution images from the event, will be available upon request and at www.popularmechanics.com/breakthroughawards.

The exclusive sponsors of this year's event are BASF and Knob Creek.

POPULAR MECHANICS empowers readers to navigate the increasingly complex, technological world around us. The magazine, published monthly by Hearst Magazines, inspires, instructs and influences 9 million curious readers. Their mindset -- the hunger to know, the desire to investigate and learn -- drives them to explore, experiment and experience a wide range of interests. Issues engage readers with breakthroughs in the latest innovations in science and technology; educates with informative how-to stories on vehicles, the home and digital technology; and motivates action with product reviews and comparison tests of the newest equipment and products. POPULAR MECHANICS is also the No. 1-ranked men's monthly magazine when it comes to reaching an environmentally conscious audience. The brand is a 21st-century must-read, with a robust website (popularmechanics.com) and an award-winning tablet edition.