Press Release   Home  >   News & Publications  > News

For Immediate Release

April 25, 2012

Media Contact:

Gina Ellrich
(240) 228-7796

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Names 2011 Best Inventions

Norma Lee Todd, Office of Technology Transfer Supervisor, and Courtney Samuels, Special Assistant to Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) present the Government Purpose Innovation Award to the Force Projection Department's Craig Carmen, Joshua Broadwater and Ashley Llorens for their innovative algorithm, Constrained Probability of False Alarm Classification.

Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

Douglas Wenstrand and Harry Eaton, both from the Research and Exploratory Development Department, won for their invention, the Ultra-Compact Multitasking Motor Controller.

Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

An ultra-compact motor controller used to revolutionize movement in a state-of-the-art prosthetic arm and an innovative algorithm for improving the performance of undersea sensors are the winners of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s Invention of the Year and Government Purpose Innovation awards for 2011.

This year’s winners were selected from 259 inventions that were disclosed at APL in the past calendar year. They were filed by more than 460 APL inventors and collaborators. The Invention of the Year winner was chosen by an outside review panel of 52 representatives from industry, the high-tech sector and patent law. For the second consecutive year, APL’s Government Purpose Innovation Award recognized an invention that has the potential to make a major impact in the defense community, and the nation.

The winners were named at the 13th annual Invention of the Year Award Reception held April 23 on the APL campus in Laurel, Md. Attendees included Ralph Semmel, Director of APL; Maryland State Delegate Guy Guzzone; and Courtney Samuels representing Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). APL Assistant Director for Science and Technology, Jerry Krill and Office of Technology Transfer Supervisor, Norma Lee Todd addressed the inventors and guests and presented trophies and cash awards to the top inventors.

Invention of the Year: Harry Eaton and Douglas Wenstrand for the Ultra-Compact Multitasking Motor Controller. This extremely small computational engine (approximately the size of a dime) governs multiple micro-miniature motors that precisely coordinate movement and feedback in APL’s state-of-the-art prosthetic arm, which has 26 degrees of freedom including independent movement of each finger. A third of the size of most other controllers, the ultra-compact motor controller includes a processor that directs a single small motor and interfaces with onboard sensors and other traditional controllers. It has been designed to work differently with each hand motor (there are 10 throughout APL’s most recent version of the prosthetic arm) depending on that location’s movement characteristics.

Government Purpose Innovation Award: Joshua Broadwater, Craig Carmen and Ashley Llorens for the Constrained Probability of False Alarm Classification (CPFAC). A critical challenge for target detection and classification systems is recognizing targets in clutter-rich environments. In sonar applications, shipping traffic, biologics and even shipwrecks contribute to the clutter picture. CPFAC is an APL-designed large margin classifier that maximizes the detection of targets for a given false alarm rate. As a result, CPFAC provides improved performance in highly cluttered undersea acoustic environments making it particularly useful to the Navy. APL’s approach has a broad application for a variety of target detection and classification problems.

“Inventions are a key indicator of how innovative an organization is,” said Krill. “The number of APL intellectual property disclosures reached an all time high last year — an 84% increase — which is a tribute to our staff’s focus on innovation. Many of these inventions came from our new Ignition Grants program where staff can propose new innovations and vote on who gets seedling grants.”

“The Invention of the Year and Government Purpose awards are designed to recognize some of the best new ideas emerging from the Lab and to commend APL scientists and engineers who developed them,” said Todd. “All of the award nominees have the potential to make a tremendous impact in the marketplace or on national security.” Click on the thumbnail
image for a larger version and caption.

Inventors of the Year

Inventors of the Year

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit

APL Celebrates 80 Years of

Game-Changing Impact

Read more

80th anniversary