Olympus Announces 2011 Winners of Olympus Innovation Awards

Now in Its Seventh Year, Program Recognizes Innovative Educators from MIT, University of California at Berkeley and The Johns Hopkins University

Mar 28, 2011, 08:30 ET from Olympus

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., March 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Olympus, a precision technology leader designing and delivering innovative solutions in its core business areas of Medical and Surgical Products, Life Science Imaging Systems, Industrial Measurement and Imaging Instruments and Cameras and Audio Products, today announced the 2011 winners in the Olympus Innovation Awards Program: Amy Smith, director, D-Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Dr. Ashok Gadgil, Andrew and Virginia Rudd Family Foundation Distinguished Chair and Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California at Berkeley; and Dr. Soumyadipta Acharya, Graduate Program Director, Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, Assistant Research Professor of Biomedical Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University.

The national Awards program, sponsored by Olympus Corporation of the Americas in partnership with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), recognizes individuals who have fostered or demonstrated innovative thinking in education. The winners received their awards last week at NCIIA's 15th Annual Conference in Alexandria, Va.

Established in 2004, the Olympus Innovation Awards Program represents Olympus' ongoing commitment to technological innovation and education. The Program includes three awards: the Olympus Innovation Award, the Olympus Lifetime of Educational Innovation Award and the Olympus Emerging Educational Leader Award. 

"Academia, like business and government, shares the opportunity to employ enterprise innovation to propose new value to society," said F. Mark Gumz, president and chief executive officer, Olympus Corporation of the Americas. "For seven years now, Olympus, with the NCIIA, has been recognizing leading U.S. educators for the societal betterment they bring to our global community – unleashing new innovations to enhance people's lives. We are proud to celebrate their ingenuity and accomplishments and, importantly, to use this platform to encourage continued enterprise innovation from future generations."

"The insights and impact these educators have on their universities and the world is awe-inspiring," said Phil Weilerstein, executive director, NCIIA, based in Hadley, Mass. "These educators, and the students they inspire and teach, are creating technologies and medical devices that have the potential to improve the lives of millions of people. NCIIA is extremely proud to partner with Olympus on such an important awards program and looks forward to continuing to recognize outstanding educators for their innovative stewardship."

Amy Smith, a mechanical engineer and inventor who won a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2004 and was one of TIME magazine's "TIME 100" in April 2010, received the 2011 Olympus Innovation Award, which recognizes a faculty member who fosters innovative thinking among students through inventive teaching methods, projects and case studies, for her conceptualization and creation of D-Lab, a program fostering the creation and dissemination of inexpensive technologies to solve problems in developing countries. In D-Lab, students learn about international development and appropriate technology and work with community partners in the field to test and refine the technology to ensure it becomes a sustainable solution. D-Lab has 12 different classes that fall into three categories: Development, Design and Dissemination and is executing projects in more than 20 countries with over 300 students. Among the many innovative accomplishments derived from D-Lab and its students are a lever-based wheelchair that is being scaled in India for its anticipated impact for the disabled, a process to make charcoal out of agricultural waste using an oil drum and readily available starch, and a practical, economical hand-held corn sheller to quickly and easily remove corn kernels from the ear. "D-Lab is something I've always believed in," said Smith, who started the program in 2002, "and the Olympus Innovation Award provides the outside recognition that will help to promote future growth and expansion for the program."

Dr. Ashok Gadgil received the Olympus Lifetime of Educational Innovation Award as a faculty member who has demonstrated a sustained contribution throughout his career to stimulating and inspiring innovative thinking in students in his own university and throughout academia. Dr. Gadgil was selected for the significant impact his interdisciplinary graduate course, "Design for Sustainable Communities," had on faculty, students and in turn, developing countries. The course was inspired by student demand and provides concepts and hands-on design experience with innovative products or processes for improving community sustainability. One notable accomplishment is the Darfur Stove Project. The Berkeley-Darfur Stove requires less than half the fuel of traditional fires, reducing the time women spend outside the safety of camps collecting firewood and decreasing their use of money and food rations to obtain fuel. Gadgil and his team, with the help of Technology Innovation for Sustainable Societies (TISS) and FJC, A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, have provided the Darfuri people with 15,000 stoves, and are sending 6,000 more by March 2012. "Students must take on real-world problems in poor communities and solve the problems in a cheaper, smarter and faster format," said Gadgil. "I hope the recognition of the Olympus Innovation Award inspires faculty and students who want to apply their knowledge of science and engineering to solve problems of humanity."

Dr. Soumyadipta Acharya received the Olympus Emerging Educational Leader Award, which recognizes an individual who has greatly inspired innovative thinking in students and whom the judges believe has significant potential to make important future contributions to the field. Dr. Acharya was recognized for his successful track record in developing and implementing educational programs in healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship at the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID). Acharya, a physician and biomedical engineer by training, is the director of the Master of Science in Engineering in Bioengineering Innovation and Design (MSE) program at CBID, a premiere graduate program that aims to train the next generation of leaders in medical technology innovation. Technologies from CBID have resulted in several patents, grants, awards and student-driven startups. A notable success is the Ante-Natal screening kit, an extremely affordable suite of diagnostic tests that CBID students have developed, with the aim of facilitating routine screening for some of the highest risk conditions of pregnancy in developing countries. At a cost of 1/3 of a cent, these tests can be easily administered and interpreted by community level health workers in rural Africa and Asia, and aims to help prevent millions of unnecessary deaths during pregnancy. "The Olympus Innovation Award provides recognition for the quality and caliber of this program," said Acharya, "and we are grateful that it recognizes that Johns Hopkins University is leading the way in innovation."

About Olympus

Olympus is a precision technology leader, designing and delivering innovative solutions in its core business areas: Medical and Surgical Products, Life Science Imaging Systems, Industrial Measurement and Imaging Instruments and Cameras and Audio Products. Olympus serves the healthcare field with integrated product solutions and financial, educational and consulting services that help customers to efficiently, reliably and more easily achieve exceptional results. Olympus develops breakthrough technologies with revolutionary product design and functionality for the consumer and professional photography markets, and also is the leader in gastrointestinal endoscopy and clinical and educational microscopes. For more information, visit www.olympusamerica.com.


The NCIIA catalyzes and supports technology innovation and entrepreneurship in universities and colleges to create experiential learning opportunities for students, and successful, socially beneficial businesses. With a membership of nearly 200 colleges and universities from all over the United States, the NCIIA engages more than 5,000 student entrepreneurs each year, leveraging their respective school campuses as working laboratories and incubators for businesses and ultimately helping them to bring their concepts to commercialization.

Editor's Note: For more information on the Olympus Innovation Awards Program, as well as photos from the awards ceremony, please visit www.olympuspresspass.com, contact the NCIIA at info@nciia.org or visit www.nciia.org.

SOURCE Olympus