University of Cape Town bioengineer Dr George Vicatos was last night named as South Africa’s Inventor of the Year by sci-tech magazine Popular Mechanics for his development of a versatile and potentially life-changing facial reconstruction system. His R50 000 prize money included an award for top spot in the Cutting Edge category of a nationwide inventors’ competition.
The award was made at a black-tie ceremony in Johannesburg following the third annual Popular Mechanics Inventors Conference. The judges remarked that Vicatos’ invention “demonstrated his commitment to a better understanding of the human organism and the tireless pursuit of practical solutions for its frailties”. Runner-up in this category was Gerard de Vaal of Cape Town, who developed and patented a revolutionary cooling system for LED products that could result in significant advances in the lighting industry.
At the same function, Somerset West inventor and businessman Jamii Hamlin captured first place in the Going Green category (sustainable energy/environmental conservation) with his versatile, ecologically sound and finely engineered Ecostake and Elektrostake stainless steel products for agricultural trellis and fencing applications.
In the Emerging Genius category, Kagiso inventor Lucky Mokalusi received a Special Merit Award of R10 000 in acknowledgement of his work on a “virtual-reality training cycle”, which employs an exercise bicycle coupled to a monitor and employing GPS data logger software to simulate real-world training routes. A similar award went to Mpumalanga inventor Kenneth Miya in recognition of his cellphone-based security system for domestic and other applications.
In the Science division of the Industry Awards, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project team was honoured for the “scientifically compelling and technologically inspiring work” underpinning South Africa’s bid to host the world’s most powerful radio telescope. The award was accepted by Willie Esterhuyse, project manager of the MeerKAT (CORRECT) Array, precursor of the SKA.
Nissan director Johan Kleynhans accepted an award in the Automotive division for the Leaf electric car. The citation reads: “This award acknowledges the compelling mix of innovation, technological prowess and marketing excellence that has elevated the Nissan Leaf electric car to a level where it has become a viable choice in the fiercely competitive automotive arena. Its imminent introduction to South Africa represents a significant milestone in planet-friendly motoring.”
The Consumer Technology award went to Samsung South Africa, acknowledging what the judges termed “the formidable impact” of the company’s innovative and technologically impressive Smart TV series, with its associated Smart Hub gateway to TV-optimised content.
Popular Mechanics editor Alan Duggan said he was extremely impressed by the quality of the entries, commenting: “The judging panel worked through a large number of entries, including some way-out ideas for ‘free-energy’ devices, but most submissions were well thought-out and carefully researched.
“What we found mildly disturbing was that a few entrants didn’t bother to make the most cursory checks via Google or anywhere else to determine whether their concepts were genuinely new. One example of this was an entry for a foot-operated toilet seat lifter – by all accounts, a deal-breaker in many relationships, but by no means an original idea.”