Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tech Awards 2008 - The Laureates

After Muhammad Yunus delivered the keynote speech at the Tech Awards 2008, this year’s laureates were presented their awards in five categories.

Intel Environment Award

The guests of honor at our table were the charming husband-and-wife team Georg and Ulrike Gruber, of Vereinigte Werkstätten für Pflanzenöltechnologie (say that three times quickly!). They developed the technology to modify diesel engines so that they can run on pure plant oil and a green process for extracting plant oil. Plant oil extraction requires significantly less energy than extracting fossil fuels and the by-products are converted into high-protein food and straw which is used for mulch.

Please excuse the glass of red wine. I'm not sure what the proper wine pairing for Camelina Oil Cakes would be, but I can tell you first hand that it paired quite nicely with our dinner.

We all admired beautiful trophy the Gruber's brought back to the table. I realized for the first time that the globe stands on a silicon ingot base.

Learn how silicon ingots are grown to make computer chips here.

The winner in this category was the Cheetah Conservation Fund. They use technology to convert invasive thorn bushes into a clean fuel. In Namibia, 25 million acres of land are choked with this bush. It renders the land useless for agriculture, alters the water cycle, reduces soil fertility, and begins desertification. The uprooted bushes are processed by a biomass processing plant produces a clean fuel, replacing firewood and coal, while restoring Namibia’s vanishing ecosystems.

The organization also cares for orphaned, old or injured cheetahs that cannot be released back into the wild. It costs $5000 a year to care for each cheetah. Looking for a great Christmas gift? You can choose which cheetah to sponsor:

Sandy is available for sponsorship.

Accenture Economic Development Award

Many of India’s rural villages suffer because they are caught in a cycle of extreme poverty. Lack of electricity cannot support income-generating businesses and lack of income cannot bring electricity. DESI Power won this award because it brings affordable biomass gasification power plants to these villages.

The power plant creates many local jobs and improves a village's economic standing, but what I am most impressed with is its impact on girls and women. Bringing reliable, safe, and clean power and drinking water frees them from being forced to collect and process fuel and water and it saves them from being exposed to toxic fumes. As a result, they can now use the services of Desi Power’s Management Training Centre for Rural Women.

Microsoft Education Award

Digital StudyHall deploys school lessons on DVD’s because there is a shortage of qualified teachers in rural and slum schools in India. The DVD’s contain lessons that help both the teachers and kids from the schools. So far they have created more than 1,000 recordings of lessons given by high-quality instructors in English, math, and science, in Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and English.

A donation to Digital StudyHall will help fund local “foot soldiers” to deliver the DVD's and equipment purchases.
Katherine M. Swanson Equality Award

Close to a million homes collapsed in earthquakes in the last three years. Build Change trains builders and homeowners to build earthquake-resistant houses in developing countries. Their designs are affordable, sustainable, easy to build and use locally-available skills and materials. They also ensure that they are culturally appropriate and resemble the traditional homes of the region.

When the tsunami devastated Aceh, BuildChange built 33 houses and aided in improving the design and construction of 4,200 homes. A resident gratefully exclaimed: “Now I can sleep at night”.

You can make a donation to BuildChange here.

Fogarty Institute for Innovation Health Award

The technology of the final award saved an estimated 3 million lives. Marc Koska of Star Syringe, Ltd developed a disposable syringe that is impossible to reuse. More than a billion K1 syringes have prevented cross-infection of Hepatitis B and C and HIV across the world. The design is simple, openly licensed to manufacturers, and kept at the same cost as standard syringes.

It was a great evening – a true celebration of the human spirit.

Photos - cheetah:, DESI Power rural women:, Digital StudyHall:, BuildChange:, Star Syringe:

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