This week, the Tech Museum of Silicon Valley announced its 2009 laureates. Among the 15 honorees:
—Joseph Adelegan, whose project in Nigeria takes the waste stream from slaughterhouses and turns it into methane for electricity generation or cooking gas.
—Sean White, who is digitizing the plant collection of the Smithsonian to create an Electronic Field Guide that will identify species through object recognition.
—The Alternative Energy Development Corp. of South Africa, which is using zinc air fuel cells for household electricity.
—Solar Ear, a Brazilian company building inexpensive hearing aids that come with solar rechargers.
—Geogebra, an organization developing open-source software for teaching geometry, algebra, and calculus.
The Tech Awards annually honor efforts to use technology to improve the lives of people around the world. One laureate in each of five categories—environment, economic development, education, equality, and health—will receive a cash prize of $50,000, to be announced at a gala on November 19th. This year’s James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award recipient, Al Gore, will also be recognized at the gala.
The announcement came at the unveiling of a new Tech Museum gallery, “Technology Benefiting Humanity. The exhibit includes interactive looks at the inventions of eleven previous laureates including Solar Sailor, a company that combines wind, solar, and hybrid technology to power boats, and Adaptive Eyecare, a company that is developing glasses with lenses whose power can be adjusted by the wearer.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.