Lemelson-MIT Program
Who We Are Awards Outreach News
Invention Dimension Search Site Map Contact Us

Press Releases


Nathan Kane, 1997 $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Winner

CAMBRIDGE, MA (February 11, 1997) — The 1997 recipient of the annual $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for inventiveness, graduate student Nathan Kane of Austin, TX, was announced today at a press briefing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Kane, 28, won the award, open only to MIT students and graduate students, on the recommendation of MIT faculty for his demonstrated inventive ability and for the breadth of his projects — from toys to classically engineered hardware — as well as for his interest in outreach to other young inventors through his proposed "Recycler Contest" for high schools. The holder of one patent with five more pending, Kane's inventions include an air supply mask with a self-retracting hose for increased worker mobility, low-distortion bellow folds for industrial machines, the HydroMax ™ modular hydrostatic bearing for machine tools (co-invented with his advisor Professor Alex Slocum), and products co-invented with colleagues such as the Pass-It™ football with a built-in TV remote as well as the Project-a-Sketch ™ opaque projector for children.

The announcement was made today by Professor Lester C. Thurow, internationally-renowned economist of MIT's Sloan School of Management and chairman of the Lemelson-MIT Prize Board, which oversees the process.

"Inventing is about ideas, but it is also about letting your invention be known and gaining support from a community of people who care about invention," said Kane, who spent time as a mentor at the Haggerty middle school in Cambridge, helping a group of students build model solar cars for the Junior Solar Sprint car race. "Programs such as the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize show that inventing is a possible career path and inspire young people like myself to pursue it," Kane said.

"Young inventors such as Kane keep America on the forefront in the race for new and better technologies, which boosts the economy and creates jobs,"said Professor Lester C. Thurow. "As we enter the 21st century, it is these young inventors who will lead the charge into new product development."

Kane, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, got his idea for his air supply mask with a self-retracting hose during a hot Texas summer while renovating the inside of his parent's Austin home. Realizing the need for an air-conditioned mask that does not restrict the worker's mobility or breathing, Kane invented a novel ultra-light bellow which is used as a retractable air hose connected to the mask. Kane has since expanded his mathematical analysis of fold patterns to allow them to be used for many diverse applications, such as making collapsible containers, expandable shelters, low-cost pumps, and low-cost protective bellows for industry. Kane's fold patterns can be mathematically optimized so that a bellow folded from a plastic sheet can extend two to three times farther than traditional folds, dramatically cutting material costs, weight, and the compressed length of bellows.

The 1996 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winner, David Levy, founded his own company, TH, Inc. ("think"), to market and develop his inventions, which include the world's smallest keyboard. The first Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winner (1995) was Thomas Massie, who founded SensAble Technologies to market his computer touch-screen interface.

The Student Prize is part of the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program. Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994 by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy. The Program celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards including the world's largest for invention, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program encourages young Americans to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship. The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, which supports other invention initiatives at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Hampshire College, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Read more about Nathan Kane.

top of page