Dean Kamen

by Alex from Fredericksburg

"Do we need to double again the rate at which we move data so two kids can play games with even more realistic violence? Or should we be ensuring everyone has at least some access to the internet?"
Caption: Dean Kamen at his home in North Dumpling (Ap Photo/ Jessica Hill)
Caption: Dean Kamen at his home in North Dumpling (Ap Photo/ Jessica Hill)

A hero can be a lot of things; they can have super strength, they can save the world, or they can cure disease. However, in my opinion a hero is a person that invests in the future of this planet by giving children the tools they need to solve problems all while inventing tools to save the world in the present. This is why Dean Kamen; inventor and the creator of the organization for the inspiration and recognition of science and technology (FIRST) is my hero.

Dean Kamen was born on April 5, 1951 in Rockville Centre, New York. After graduating high school he was accepted to Worcester Polytechnic University. He studied there for a few years before deciding to drop out to pursue a career as an inventor. His first major invention was the AutoSyringe, an automatic pump that is able to dispense medicines in specific amounts throughout the day. This pump not only gave patients, especially diabetics, more accurate and perfectly timed doses, it gave them their independence, because this pump made it possible to leave the hospital and go home. This pump was able to do that because the patients no longer had to give themselves injections or go to the hospital to get injections; instead the pump automatically dispensed their medicine to them whenever it was needed.

Another, perhaps more famous invention of Kamen’s is the Segway Human Personal Transporter. The Segway is a two wheeled electric powered vehicle that you control by leaning the way that you want to go. Even though the Segway is very well known only about 50,000 have been sold as of March 2009. However, the rights to the Segway brand were sold to a group of investors in early 2010 after Kamen realized that the Segway would never be able to do as well as he thought it could have. The predecessor of the Segway was a wheelchair that used the same technology as the Segway to be able to balance on two wheels; this wheelchair is called the iBOT. This wheelchair is also beneficial to handicapped people because it allows them to be raised up so that they can be at eye level with people, it can also climb up and down stairs and curbs. This wheelchair also gave handicapped people the ability to drive on gravel, uneven surfaces, and even in up to three inches in water. All of these qualities made this wheelchair a great thing for handicapped people because, like the AutoSyringe, it gave them a new sense of independence.

A bird’s eye view of the 19th FIRST Robotics Cham (AP Photo/Rich Addicks)
A bird’s eye view of the 19th FIRST Robotics Cham (AP Photo/Rich Addicks)

The final, and arguably most important, invention that Kamen made is the organization for the inspiration and recognition of science and technology, better known as FIRST. This organization was started by Kamen in 1992 as a way to inspire children to be interested in fields such as engineering, mechanics, and mathematics, among others. One of the most popular FIRST programs is the FIRST robotics challenge. In this program teams made of high school students are given six weeks to build a robot that has to be able to complete a certain task. The task last year was to be able to kick a soccer ball into a goal; however the task changes every year. After the robot is finished the team takes the robot to a competition where they are put on teams and play against an opposing team, like most other sports.

My experience with this program has made me more interested in pursuing a career in a science or engineering related field. Also, it has gotten rid of the idea of the stereotypical nerd that most people would think of when they hear about a team of high school kids building a robot. Instead of the stereotypical ideas about what a person building a robot is like, I think of all of the people I have met at robotics related events, most of which are in reality normal people. Dean Kamen is also a hero to people because of his many inventions that allow people to get around easier and be more independent; such as the wheelchair I mentioned earlier or the AutoSyringe, which allows people who need medicine injected throughout the day to be more independent. He is also working to touch the lives of people in third world countries by making the Slingshot. This is a device that can be employed in third world countries to purify water that would otherwise be undrinkable, thus saving the lives of many people who would have died without pure water because of parasites and diseases that are common in unpurified water. Overall, the main reason that Dean Kamen is able to do such great things is because he takes things that he thinks the world needs and he makes them without putting much thought into if he is going to be able to make money off of them. This leads to him being able to invent technologies that are not necessarily going to be financially successful, but instead are going to be able to make the world a better, more accessible place for everyone.

Page created on 12/11/2010 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 1/9/2017 9:50:57 PM

Related Links

Guardian - An interview with Dean Kamen where he talks about what he thinks the future holds in terms of science, and what he is currently doing to make advances in the field.
Invent Now - This is an article about the AutoSyringe, Kamen's breakout invention, with a little background on him.
Wikipedia - A good resource to get a general idea of who Dean Kamen is and what he does.