In technology, it’s not enough to build a better mousetrap. So what separates the dreamer from the innovator? That depends. How about persistence, a true love for what you do, and the ability to see beyond limitations? But to make a real impact on any industry, you have to successfully implement your idea-and your product must truly make a difference. From futuristic chip technologies to clean-air devices and cancer-detecting biotechnology, the following tech innovators are moving beyond the cutting edge, giving us a glimpse of what our future holds.
Ntiedor Etuk, 30: Mention the word algebra to most adults and they immediately recall factors, exponents, and the arcane language of FOIL. Many remember the childhood trauma of being forced to learn the idioms of mathematics.
According to Ntiedo Etuk, learning math doesn’t have to be painful. Etuk is chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Tabula Digita Inc., a New York-based educational gaming company that combines high-end, 3D video game graphics with action and adventure. “We have never associated pleasure with learning something,” says Etuk. “When you watch children play a video game, they express an emotion every five to 10 seconds. That’s what I call the engagement component; it brings an emotional experience to learning. Kids learn more and the information is more deeply embedded because of that.”
Etuk started the company three years ago with co-founder Robert Clegg, an award-winning electronic game designer. Tabula Digita’s first product, Dimenxian, is a first-person, story-driven game that leads students through an action adventure environment while learning foundational algebraic concepts. The multiplayer educational game challenges players to accomplish several tasks-and learn algebra-to succeed, making the company’s motto “learn math or die trying” all the more fitting.
“We’re losing a whole generation of kids to educational teaching methods that don’t resonate with them,” says Etuk. “I want to give kids the option to do whatever they want to do. I believe that by grabbing their attention and redirecting it to education, you can open up a whole world of options they might not have considered.”
Etuk says years of research on teaching math, student testing, and video game playing went into developing the games. The company has a partnership with The Princeton Review and has tested the game with hundreds of children nationwide.
Tommy Lopez, 33: Remember watching Robocop and thinking, “That’s cool,” as the futuristic law enforcer scanned both vehicle and passenger, retrieving data in an instant? Well, Thomas Lopez’s suite of applications might not give police officers body-temperature readouts, but it lets them process vehicle information and handle electronic ticketing at traffic stops-almost without leaving their cars.
To diffuse potentially fraught situations, Lopez, one of three founders of Advanced Public Safety, developed a suite of products which includes voice-enabled input, electronic ticketing, and GPS and mapping technology. For law enforcement, APS’ tools essentially work as a virtual partner, using a combination of voice-enabled technology, handhelds, and PCs. Rather than typing license plate numbers and vehicle IDs, officers speak into an on-board microphone attached to a PC using APS technology.