Masters of Innovation

the lead engineer on the repair project. It took about five months to fix—after all, the equipment failure was on another planet. The issue was a broken wire, and under Trebi-Ollennu’s leadership the team developed a work-around and got the rover mobile again.

An accomplished senior space-robotics engineer, the Ghana native was one of the first people (and the first black person) to drive the Mars Exploration Rovers and was a key member of the Phoenix Mars Lander team. He’s as passionate about problem-solving as he is about the impact of the space program on terrestrial technology. “Most people don’t realize that most of the advancement that’s been made in medicine and things such as cell phone technology came about because of the exploration of space,” he says. “You’ll find that space exploration has provided for a lot of things that benefit society. That’s why we’re able to get very small cell phones. We push the envelope because to get something into space you need to package it very tightly.”

MALCOLM SPELLER
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
AmniFPS International L.L.C.
Speller, a food engineer, launched AmniFPS from a Website in 1998. Today he leads the company’s effort to help businesses—primarily in emerging markets—enhance the productivity and profitability of their food processing operations through a combination of technology tools. He is also helping an architectural and engineering design firm develop a bio-farming strategy.
Innovation: Speller is preparing to launch AmniFPS International L.L.C. in Nigeria, with plans to develop liquid sweeteners processed from cassava.

LEVI THOMPSON
Professor, Chemical Engineering
University of Michigan
Thompson’s research focuses on uncovering new methods of delivering energy and fuel conversions. With his team of researchers, Thompson creates nanoscale (with dimensions measured in nanometers) structures to improve the development and efficiency of micro-fuel cells, which can be used as wireless portable sources of energy for items such as sensors, potential ear implant devices, and pacemakers.
Innovation: Thompson, also developed hydrogen-powered fuel cells to help meet the automotive industry’s demands for sources of alternative energy.

LARRY WALKER
Professor, Dept. of Biological and Environment Engineering
Cornell University

Walker is a leader in biofuels and industrial biotechnology. This area is expected to contribute new technologies that will efficiently liberate sugars in grass and trees and convert them into ethanol—a fuel alternative to gasoline. Currently corn is used because of its higher sugar content.
Innovation: Through Walker’s work, trees and grass have the potential to become an economically viable fuel alternative, since they’re less expensive to grow compared with corn, which requires large amounts of fertilizer.

Ajamu Wesley
Senior Software Architect
IBM

Wesley helps develop social software product offerings within IBM’s Lotus Software Division, which is responsible for the company’s Enterprise 2.0 and Social Networking Product Suite. These products provide business professionals with seamless integration between enterprise security and Web 2.0 networking technologies.
Innovation: In 2007, Wesley received the Golden Torch Award from the National Society of Black Engineers for his efforts in information technology.

Further Reading: Tech Talk With IBM’s Elite

—Reporting by Alan Hughes, LaToya M. Smith, Lois Barrett & Anthony Calypso

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