The Emmys of Humanitarian Tech

From flexible flashlights to genetically engineered fertilizers, San Jose's Tech Museum names the 25 most do-goody projects of the year

The TV show Heroes didn't win an Emmy this weekend, but that's okay. Awards of a different kind have just been handed out to real heroes: people who are using technology to help those in need. The Tech Museum in San Jose recently announced its annual Tech Award Laureates, a group of 25 organizations doing innovative work in the areas of health, the environment, education, economic development and equality. Check out these photos of some of the most intriguing honorees in action, everywhere from a rice field in China to a medical clinic in Sierra Leone.

NETFLIX FOR SCHOOLS
The Digital Study Hall project films classroom lessons and then mails the DVDs to schools in rural India, where there's a shortage of teachers.Digital StudyHall
TEACH A MAN TO BUILD…
The architects behind BuildChange do more than build earthquake-resistant houses in developing countries: They create designs that are as quick and cheap to build as traditional homes, using readily found materials, so locals can continue to put up safe structures after volunteers leave. For instance, they trained builders following the tsunami Indonesia, and are currently working with people there who lost their homes in earthquakes.Build Change
SUPER SEEDS
Nitrogen fertilizers, commonly used on farms, cause pollution when they volatize into nitrous oxide or wash into rivers and oceans. Arcadia Biosciences is creating an unusual alternative—not a new kind of fertilizer, but a genetically modified plant that uses less nitrogen. So far they've inserted a nitrogen-efficiency gene into canola, tobacco, and rice plants. They're currently doing testing (hopefully including environmental assessments) in this Chinese rice paddy and elsewhere, and Arcadia hopes to have a super-seed on the market by 2012.Arcadia Biosciences, Inc.
QUICK DIAGNOSIS
With a simple portable tool, doctors can find out within three minutes if a patient has HIV, Hepatitis B, or Hepatitis C. They just have to drop a bit of blood onto MedMira's Multiplo HIV/HBV/HCV cartridge, the only quick test that can detect three diseases at once. Here, doctors use the test in Sierra Leone.MedMira Inc.