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Peter Diamandis, Mars Rover Team Win Breakthrough Awards

By Michele Berger
Published: October 23, 2013

A replica of the Mars Curiosity Rover and an actual-sized wheel. The team that built and runs this machine was honored at Popular Mechanics' Breakthrough Awards. (Matthew Carasella)

How do you provide clean drinking water to some of the places in the world that need it the most? Figure out a way to filter it that costs very little and that uses natural resources found in abundance where these people live.

That’s exactly what 18-year-old Meghan Shea did with bamboo and a plant called the moringa seed, and it earned her an Innovator Award from Popular Mechanics. It was one of 10 such prizes the magazine gave out as part of its ninth annual Breakthrough Awards in New York City Tuesday, along with 10 product honors. Peter Diamandis, founder of the XPrize Foundation, earned the Leadership Award.

Meghan Shea, an 18-year-old Stanford University freshman, figured out how to create clean drinking water using cheap, natural materials. She earned one of Popular Mechanics' Breakthrough Awards. (Matthew Carasella)

“Innovators can create the future,” Diamandis said during his keynote address. “I don’t see anything that’s impossible.”

To that end, Diamandis announced three new Ocean XPRIZEs by 2020. Those come on top of the one already in existence, a $2 million motivation to push inventors to create what the XPRIZE Foundation calls “accurate, affordable ocean pH sensors” to help advance the scientific community’s understanding of ocean acidification and how to reverse it. 

“The lungs of planet Earth are becoming acidified,” Diamandis said. The new prizes will hopefully answer the question, what else can we be doing to help, he added. The idea is to crowd source to come to the best conclusion.

Other honorees from the Breakthrough Awards included a liquid repellent that, once sprayed on something, protects it from all manner of liquid, as well as drones that fly on their own, the doctors who created a 3-D tracheal splint (and successfully used it on a patient) and the Mars Curiosity Rover team

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