No one ever said inventing was easy. And make no mistake, that's what the man who created the Segway is doing here. He's working on refining the invention that will trump all others, that will establish his legacy long after he's gone. Except this invention isn't made of gears and gyroscopes. What Kamen is doing is trying to reinvent our entire culture. And the brains of these high-school students is where he's going to start.
You might be interested to know a few things about Dean Kamen. You might like to know that while he barely eked out his high-school diploma, as a teenager he had already turned his parents' basement into a machine shop and was making 60 grand a year rigging sound and light shows at museums and hotels around New York City. (He's an ADHD dyslexic, that classic driven-innovator double threat.) You might like to know that he's a creature of habit, offloading pesky daily decision-making by wearing the same uniform of Levi's jeans, denim button-down shirt and work boots every day for nearly 30 years and eating at the same middling Italian chain restaurant almost every night. It might intrigue you to learn that he is a pop-culture conscientious objector, a man who has watched Star Wars dozens of times and every other movie exactly never. And that in his garage resides the 14th Tesla electric Roadster to roll off the factory floor, with a license plate that says "FIRST," plus a Porsche coupe and a military-grade Hummer. In another garage are his two Enstrom helicopters, a three-seat piston-engine model he'll sometimes take for a three-minute commute to his office and a turbo-powered 480 for longer jaunts, like when he decides to head over to North Dumpling, his private three-acre island in Long Island Sound that in 1987 he declared (only half-jokingly) an independent and sovereign nation.
You might be interested to know all that, but, according to Kamen, you shouldn't be.
"Have you looked out the window lately? Read the news? The world is a mess!" he says. "We're obsessing over distractions and pastimes while the world unwinds itself!" Kamen is sitting in his office, across from a chair that's painted to look as if Einstein were seated on it. Above him hangs an aerial photo of his lighthouse home on North Dumpling, the image emblazoned with a characteristically provocative boast: "The only 100% Science Literate Society. America could learn a lot from its neighbor."
Kamen is not entirely averse to the propagation of the Dean Kamen mythology. Indeed, if he's going to rally the troops necessary to rescue this country from its descent into moral complacency and moronic doldrums, attaining rock-star status would be a wise tactical move. He'd just like to control the message. So here is what he would like you to know about him, something he deems a worthy investment of your mental energy: that every one of his inventions — the wearable drug-infusion pump he devised in 1973 at age 22, the Segway scooter, his water purifier for impoverished communities — has been designed for the betterment of mankind. And that in 1982 he built from nothing a company of inventors-for-hire called Deka Research, with the express mandate that they only invent products that make the world better. It's also worth knowing that Kamen's definition of better is not flexible: Better means giving humanity what it needs, not what it wants. Once we've provided the basic necessities (water, power, health care) for the nearly seven billion people on the planet, Kamen explains, then we can go back to chasing a quick buck.
"I don't think Wilbur and Orville and Thomas Edison set out as their primary goal to figure out how, in the shortest period of time possible, to make the most money," says Kamen as he wanders through the cavernous top floor of a newly acquired, gutted industrial space a quarter-mile upstream from Deka, number nine in his collection of abandoned textile-mill buildings. "They set out to make a machine that could fly, or make night safe by making light."
Of course, Kamen makes money — a great deal of it, actually. But, he asserts, "making money is a consequence of good invention, not a motivation for invention." And that's how he runs his Manchester research outpost. Beholden to no stockholders and no bottom line, he has fashioned an inventor's paradise, where the laws of physics and thermodynamics are the only ones that matter, the laws of economics banished to some less evolved place and time. Deka is a strange, cultish world of really, really smart do-gooders who have the will and the capacity to build life-altering machines, and they couldn't care less if the rest of the country thinks they're crazy. It's an extension of Kamen himself.
"Deka is a masterpiece," says bioengineer Jason Demers, who has worked with Kamen for 15 years. "One person can do only so much. But when you get 300 people to think like you — and with your strengths — well, that's when you can get a whole lot done."
Now if Kamen could only get the rest of the world to run like Deka.
what is with the picture. i sorry popsci but i think this picture is so racist. the reason i think it all the picture is weird not only that when you see the magazines version of the picture. there is a person that has all the figurer of what a Asian boy would look like. not only that the picture could had been better if they would use real people instead of a artist drawing it. it would show what FIRST really mean to people.
The picture... is racist.
Yeah, seeing as racism is an ideal and a picture is an inanimate object, I don't think that's even possible. Maybe I just can't wade through your grammar to understand what you mean by saying the picture is "racist." Could you clarify?
On topic, guys.
I admire him for trying to do this. I only hope that everyone else will actually listen to him...
He has taken chances and delved into many areas of innovation. Where others see risk, he sees opportunity. Dean has been doing his thing for many years and my guess is he will continue for many more. I look forward to his next big "secret" project.
Well, the guy is a fair inventor and self promoter -- in the tradition of Edison.
But, if he wants to encourage innovation, he should share his methods of selling inventions. There are lots of innovators around -- few know how to make a buck from it.
Kudos to him for promoting the robot contest.
I do wonder why everybody cites the Segway as possibly his greatest invention. As far as I can tell, it's a fairly limited concept. Granted, it's innovative, but it solves problems that few people have. Sone of his other stuff is far more impressive.
It is true what you say about the segway, that it has met with limited acceptance but perhaps only a niche market is all that is needed until another inventor takes the ball and runs.
Mr. Kaman's invention selling methods aren't the real keys to his success. If you re-read the article, you will find what he does is not aimed at selling. His aim is to better mankind through his inventions. When the inventions succeed in this regard (the only measure of an invention's success to Mr. Kaman), he is handsomely rewarded. So, don't focus on how much you can make with an invention; Focus on how much better it can make people's lives, and they will beat a path to your door.
As for the comments regarding racism, I could go on for days about this. The main message is this: What you resist persists. If you are looking for evidence of racism, you will see it everywhere. And for God's sake, learn the language! Like it or not, people will judge you based on what you say or write, and may dismiss you without even thinking about your message. Even if the message in the first post was well-thought out (I can't see much evidence that it was), the point would be hopelessly lost due to the inability to communicate it well....or at all. I have tried several times to struggle through the poor grammar and punctuation, and I still don't see any substantiation of the point. Actually, I'm not sure I see the point either.
I agree with the third post. This is not the forum for comments about racism and the like. Take that fight "outside," if you really still believe you can fix anything by fighting. I think of my comments as correcting the record, and in case you think I'm doing exactly what I say shouldn't be done, I will not post on anything like this again.
Now go invent something that helps people, or support those who do!
"Give me ambiguity, or give me something else."
"Mr. Kaman's invention selling methods aren't the real keys to his success. If you re-read the article, you will find what he does is not aimed at selling. His aim is to better mankind through his inventions."
I got a good chuckle at this. The fact that you believe the above statement only proves just how good at marketing himself Mr. Kamen really is.
Regarding the racism thing; your second paragraph was exactly my point, though in more words.
Even if one or more of his inventions never becomes commercially viable, we cannot predict the spin-off affect it may have on the subsequent development by others who take the idea and run with it.
Kamen's most important invention was the one that spurred development of the Segway; the iBot, wheelchair replacement. Contenders include the insulin pump for pregnant women and the Slingshot water purification device. And let's not forget the stent.
I was a mentor for a First team for 3 years. To me the biggest difference between First and any other competition is that the all of the competitors work together. I helped a rookie rival team, from a rural school from North Dakota set-up next to us in a regional competition, write the software they needed so they could compete. The team had no access to anyone with programming skills and was hoping someone could help them. The kids from MY team heard their about their dilemma and asked if I could help.
The regional competition has announcers in the pit who make general requests if say one team's robot is broken and they need parts. Four teams will show up 5 minutes later parts in hand, because no one wants to see another team sitting out from a match. It is so hard to explain how different it is compared to any "competition" in our culture.
Honestly the most prestigious award, The Chairman's Award" has nothing to do with how well your robot performs, and all to do with the difference your team has mad in the community.
It really is a great thing to be a part of if you can.
I was staring at the Distiller and thinking there has to be a better way. The world's poor can't afford a machine that's going to cost thousands if not 10's of thousands, even if it's purchased at a village level. Like the solar cookers, they need something fashioned out of a foil-lined cardboard box or the like. Preferably with a minimal CO2 footprint and not requiring any oil-based components.
You're so right, Dean. The world's a mess and we are messing around with distractions. I could cheerfully throttle the next person who boasts yet another electric car that can do 0-100 in 12 secs. We need bikes made entirely of bamboo.
"Dean Kamen Won't Be Satisfied Until He Reinvents Us All" I thought this might be an interesting article and started it with the thought that it would be something about saving the world from it's current predicaments. Then I find out that what the title should have been is "Dean Kamen wants to change everyone else" as he enjoys his 32,000 sq. ft. home (32,000!), his Tesla, Porsche, and Hummer, his 2, 2 mind you, helicopters, and his own private island!! I can't believe that he takes his helicopter to work and not a Segway! I could not bring myself to finish the article because I am not interested in the least to hear from an egotistical hypocritical bigot. I've often wondered myself why the Segway hasn't become more popular, could it be that the cost is paying for the basic "needs" in life for Mr. Kamen...
I have a response for you, Bruce Borrowman.
You should have kept reading.
I have been a member of a FIRST Robotics team for 3 years now, being a full-time member of not one but two FIRST teams in the 2008-2009 season, one of which (a rookie team) ranked 20th at the Nationals in Atlanta. (By the way, it was a lot of fun, you should try to go to a regional next March, if you have the time!)
But to the point: Mr. Kamen is not as egotistical as some of the other comments seem to indicate. He has these things because he is in such high esteem and high demand by his professional acquaintances, he requires personal, private long- and short-distance transportation. And besides, if you had earned as high a living standard as he has, wouldn't you acquaint yourself with a Porsche?
Also, his business and his home are miles away. Could you ride a Segway for miles? I didn't think so. The batteries would die, or the device would end up broken. Plus, I don't know if you've ever seen one, but they're not especially fast. I think that a more correct analysis of Dean is as a idealistic realist. He sets off on journeys to improve humanity, and actually accomplishes them.
And besides, when I spoke with him, he didn't seem too thrilled to be a veritable rock star of engineering. It's almost as though he's doing all of this out of a sense of duty to the world, as though he's the one who has the ability and drive to change the world, and so he's the one who has to do it, whether or not he gets tired, or upset, or frustrated about it.
Please, before you sound off about an article in the future, make sure you actually read the whole thing. Thank you.
Stand in front with style.Honestly i didn't who is Kamen before this.
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He is a very great man, I wish that I can do like him.
Bah! Anyone who dresses in denim is a ijit. Worst clothing fabric on the face of the Earth, with the possible exception of burlap.
Focusfusion.org will do more to change the world than Dean Kamen.
P.S. Anyone who accuses others of racism to discredit their ideas is also a ijit.
I like Kamen's personal vehicle. Small and simple. Does anybody know how much is it?