Sensors' Inaugural Engineer of the Year

E-mail Barbara Goode

Inspired by the tragic loss of a young engineer whose life and potential were cut short, Sensors last year announced the launch of its Engineer of the Year award. After reading and weighing the relative merits of all submissions, we editors decided on a winner—or rather, a group of winners.

The Inspiration
We devised the Sensors Engineer of the Year award to honor the memory of Eamonn Dillon, whom we editors met just over a year ago at Sensors Expo 2005. Eamonn, an engineer at Analog Devices in Ireland, was just 24 years old. His enthusiasm and potential were evident as he accepted, on behalf of his team, the Best of Sensors Expo Gold award for one of our favorite products at the show, the AD7745 capacitance-to-digital converter.

Stunned and saddened to learn of his accidental death later that week, we decided to launch the Sensors Engineer of the Year award to recognize the potential Eamonn had, and to honor other individuals whose engineering work furthers the relevance and significant effect of sensors.

The Winning Work
The winners of Sensors' inaugural Engineer of the Year award, reported in our October issue, demonstrated an effective solution to a problem that has plagued owners and manufacturers of portable electronic devices. When such items are dropped—which happens frequently—the resulting impact can damage sensitive components. A device able to sense that it's in free-fall could trigger its own protective mode—but fall-detection methods have heretofore had limited success. That's why Freescale Semiconductor Inc.'s Inertial Sensor Applications Team—consisting of Michelle Kelsey, Leticia Gomez, Rod Borras and Akihiro Ueda—got directly involved with laptop manufacturers and others.

The Inertial Sensor Applications team has developed a system and method that provides reliable, efficient fall detection even in the presence of other motion (details available in the October issue). Samsung has designed the resulting MMA7260Q 3-axis sensor into some of its newest digital audio players to enable not only free-fall detection, but also new features such as menu scroll by tilt. Other applications include human body fall detection, shipping and handling monitoring, wireless sensor networking, fall and shock logging for warranty information gathering, and black boxes/event recording. For instance, the devices can send an alert for help when an elderly person or firefighter falls, and can also detect the body's movements after the fall.

The Inspiration Continues
Congratulations and thanks to Michelle, Leticia, Rod, and Akihiro for all their efforts on this ingenious application of sensor technology. May their work inspire others as Eamonn's enthusiasm inspired us.

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