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Inventive student wins first Lemelson Prize

A graduate student in mechanical engineering has won the first $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for exceptional creativity and inventiveness.

Thomas H. Massie was honored for his talents in areas ranging from solar car design to computer interfaces.

The prize was established as an annual one by Jerome Lemelson, with 500 patents the nation's most prolific living inventor, and his wife Dorothy, to stimulate invention.

The Lemelsons presented the award June 6 at a Faculty Club luncheon. Those attending included Mr. Massie's wife and family. Presiding was Lester C. Thurow, Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Professor of Management and Economics at the Sloan School of Managment, who oversees the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. It was initially awarded in March to GM engineer William J. Bolander.

One of Mr. Massie's inventions is an ingenious "touch interface" that allows a person to "feel" and "manipulate" objects on a computer screen. A company he started to develop that invention won the annual $10K Entrepreneurial Business Plan Competition at MIT last month (see Tech Talk May 17, 1995).

The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize jury consisted of Leslie M. Compton, materials engineer, Altran Materials Engineering; Matthew K. Haggerty, president/CEO, Product Genesis, Inc.; Richard E. Heitman, president, Venture Support Associates; Krisztina Holly, vice president-product development, Stylus Innovation; and Neil Pappalardo, chairman/CEO, Medical Information Technologies. The prize is part of the Lemelson National Program in Invention, Innovation and Creativity, which supports activities at MIT, Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, the University of Nevada at Reno and the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 21, 1995.

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