Impact Spotlights

Stories and examples of the Foundation's work and the work of our grantees to improve lives through invention.

Impact Spotlights
Ramesh Raskar working with student inventors in India
April 5, 2017
In September 2016, Dr. Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab and holder of more than 75 patents, was awarded the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for his work in developing radical imaging solutions.
Impact Spotlights
August 3, 2016
In June 2016, hundreds of students and teachers from all across the United States converged on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge to celebrate the power of invention. They came to Cambridge for EurekaFest, a multi-day, student-centered showcase designed to empower the next generation of inventors through activities that inspire youth, honor role models, and encourage creativity and problem solving. The annual event marks the culmination of a year’s work by the dedicated staff at the Lemelson-MIT program, and it is unlike any other confab in the world of invention education. Each year EurekaFest brings together a community of up-and-coming student inventors, aged 14 to 24, and the educators who are encourage and support these young visionaries and problem solvers.
Impact Spotlights
July 11, 2016
By Carol Dahl, Executive Director, The Lemelson Foundation I have the best job in the world. Every day I get to be inspired by some of the world’s brightest minds solving the world’s biggest challenges. Last month, I met up with Drs. Maria Oden and Rebecca Richards-Kortum of Rice University – inspiring leaders both and longtime partners of the Foundation. These two engineers have the skills and resources to create almost anything they set their minds to, from a new gaming device to the next blockbuster social media app. But, together with their students at Rice, they’ve created something far more inspiring – a machine that helps save the lives of vulnerable babies in some of the poorest places on earth.
Impact Spotlights
DayOne Response waterbag
June 1, 2016
Invention-based businesses create jobs, spark economic development, and hold unique potential for improving people’s lives. But this work is not easy. Inventors – especially young people who are just finishing their educations and starting businesses – face many obstacles. Their ultimate success rests not just on the strength of their inventions, but the soundness of their business plans and the support they’re able to garner at every turn.
Impact Spotlights
20th year logo
April 25, 2016
Birthdays are a good time to celebrate accomplishments and reflect on what you’ve learned. This year as VentureWell turns 20 years old, we’re celebrating work with hundreds of universities and thousands of faculty to strengthen invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship education in the US. We’ve learned many valuable lessons – through success and setbacks – about what it takes to nurture the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Here’s what I think are the most important learnings of VentureWell’s past two decades: Support the individuals, develop the pathways, connect with the ecosystem, and extend broadly and widely.
Impact Spotlights
April 18, 2016
Anemia has long been recognized as a major public health threat in India. By 2005-06 it was affecting nearly 70 percent of all Indian children ages one to five, and 55 percent of women ages 15-49. (Anemia, Volume 2014, Article 176182). Its toll was particularly harsh in rural areas where the lack of access to basic diagnostics and treatment often resulted in premature births, low-weight newborns, and maternal deaths.
Impact Spotlights
February 25, 2016
Before winter break, I had the privilege to sit in on a new class at that was launched by TIE Oregon as part of the TIE Young Entrepreneurs program. The course teaches the principles of invention and entrepreneurship by guiding the students through real-world problem identification, brainstorming and prototyping solutions, and planning businesses around their inventions. The class took place at Benson Polytechnic High School in Portland, which is not what most people think of as a training ground for top technology start-up leaders. Benson is a school of more than 1,100 students, and many of them are from minority groups and low-income families. Most Benson students have had a tough time in traditional academic environments.
Impact Spotlights
Panel at the 20th Anniversary Celebration in support of strengthening the invention ecosystem
January 19, 2016
As The Lemelson Foundation’s 20th Anniversary year draws to a close, we are compelled to pause and take stock of all that’s transpired over the past 12 months. From major milestones reached to the high hurdles ahead, we have much to ponder as a foundation seeking to improve lives through invention. We are also mindful of all that has occurred externally over the past year – developments far beyond our organizational walls that will profoundly influence and shape the work we do as grantmakers.
Impact Spotlights
Jay Harmon at The Lemelson Foundation's 20th Anniversary celebration
December 29, 2015
Jay Harman, one of this year’s AAAS-Lemelson Ambassadors, is a naturalist, entrepreneur, and founder of PAX Scientific, Inc. PAX is a fluid dynamics research and design firm that uses biomimicry – emulation of nature’s patterns and strategies to solve human challenges – to develop energy-efficient industrial tools. Harman believes that inefficient energy usage is the root of many problems in industry today, and that simple solutions can be found in nature. All we need to do is pay attention.
Impact Spotlights
December 10, 2015
In order for invention to have impact, it needs to reach people. See how The Lemelson Foundation and it's partners support a pathway that inspires the next generation of inventors, educates them with the tools to turn their ideas into inventions and enterprises, and then supports a pipeline for incubating those inventions into products and companies with impact.
Impact Spotlights
Learning is hands-on at the Lemelson Hall for Invention and Innovation
November 20, 2015
Over the summer, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History celebrated the opening of the new Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation. The Hall explores the role of invention in the United States, through hands-on activities, informative exhibits, and collaboration. In just a few months since its opening, the Hall is abuzz with the excitement of young and old would-be inventors. The new Hall is the first permanent public home of the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention, and its opening showcases a 20-year partnership between The Lemelson Foundation and the Smithsonian. The alliance was forged in 1995 when Jerry and Dorothy Lemelson approached the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, about an exhibition space that would increase the public’s understanding of invention and its power to effect change in our lives and communities. From those early conversations, the Lemelson Center was born. Over the course of the next two decades, it would become the nation’s leading resource for the study of the history of invention and innovation.
Impact Spotlights
November 10, 2015
Villgro, a long-time partner of The Lemelson Foundation, is an Indian-based organization that works to incubate innovations that improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in rural India, and support the social entrepreneurs behind those innovations.
Impact Spotlights
Mohamed Harding has created many solutions in his bedroom lab.
August 20, 2015
Many people will say that young people are the hope for our future. But they seem to think those young people will start tackling the world’s problems when they’re grown. Very few actually go to teenagers and ask them to solve community challenges—right now—with whatever materials they can find. That’s what Global Minimum does. The results are impressive, to say the least.
Impact Spotlights
Abhishek Sen is one of the co-founders of the medical engineering and design firm Biosense Technologies, a company incubated by Villgro.
July 28, 2015
The Lemelson Foundation partners with Villgro to incubate innovations that improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in rural India, and support the social entrepreneurs behind these innovations. Abhishek Sen is one of the co-founders of the medical engineering and design firm Biosense Technologies, a company incubated by Villgro. Sen is known for his pioneering work in point-of-care diagnostics, which are simple tests that can be administered at someone’s bedside. After noticing that most medical innovations catered to a western context, Sen and his partners founded Biosense to develop revolutionary diagnostics that are applicable in the uniquely complex environment of India.
Impact Spotlights
Eric, left, and Evan Edwards, lifelong food allergy sufferers, came up with the Auvi-Q, an epinephrine injection with automated voice instructions.
June 24, 2015
No one wants to be fumbling for the instruction book when you need a shot of life-saving medicine. That is exactly why a new auto-injector technology talks users through how to administer emergency doses of drugs—minimizing the potential for errors in situations where even a brief delay could prove fatal. The talking injector was the brainchild of two college students who turned their own personal challenges into a major medical products corporation, with the springboards of the right college class and a modest investment from people who understand invention and entrepreneurs.
Impact Spotlights
Katelyn Sweeney (left), Doug Scott (center), and fellow InvenTeam student Olivia Van Amsterdam demonstrated their invention at the 2014 White House Science Fair
June 15, 2015
In 2013, the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam at Natick High School near Boston invented a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) capable of conducting search-and-rescue operations in iced-over waters. The vehicle can traverse the surface of the ice in just a few minutes, then lower a submersible into a hole in the ice with a boom and pulley system. The first-of-its-kind submersible takes the place of a human diver, searching for objects or bodies in dangerous waters up to 40-feet deep with temperatures of 33–45°F. Natick’s InvenTeam has received significant attention for the breakthrough, including an invitation to participate in the 2014 White House Science Fair. The Lemelson Foundation recently caught up with Doug Scott, Natick’s InvenTeam mentor, and Katelyn Sweeney, a former InvenTeam team member who is currently a sophomore at MIT.
Impact Spotlights
Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam participants with Bill Nye at the White House Science Fair
May 15, 2015
Dr. Angela Belcher is an invention force to be reckoned with. The MIT professor of materials science and biological engineering is a leader in the field of nanotechnology, and has leveraged her extensive work on self-assembled materials to start two companies. Yet what excites Dr. Belcher the most isn’t lab work or business plans, but teaching. “If I didn’t have such passionate and brilliant students, I wouldn’t be able to do anything that I do. Students think anything is possible,” says Belcher.
Impact Spotlights
David Sengeh. Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winner and head of GMin
April 24, 2015
The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue inventive careers. David Sengeh, a Ph.D. candidate at the MIT Media Lab, is an embodiment of that mission. Sengeh was one of the winners of the 2014 Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize Competition for his groundbreaking work on improved sockets for prosthetic legs. Sengeh witnessed the need for his invention first-hand by talking to amputees in his home country Sierra Leone and those in the United States. He noticed that many seldom used their legs and if they did, they were uncomfortable. The reason was simple: The prosthetics hurt.
Impact Spotlights
Sanergy's Fresh Life Toilet is a cost-effective solution for sanitation challenges.
April 2, 2015
Most of us take our indoor plumbing for granted, but about 40 percent of people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation. Many of those people live in cramped slums, where human waste ends up in rivers or the street, where it can contaminate drinking water and the food supply and cause disease. A company called Sanergy is helping to solve that problem in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya with a cost-effective solution that is not just providing hygienic sanitation, but also creating badly needed jobs and taking the waste out of the community.