One December evening at UnWine'd, a Kamen haunt in Manchester with live jazz and a wine selection that rivals the one in his own home's basement, something bad happens: The silent flat-screen TV in the corner of the bar catches Kamen's eye. "Look at these guys running around in tights and padding and throwing a ball around a field for millions of dollars." He's been snared by highlights from Monday night's snooze of a matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans. "It's ridiculousness! We get what we celebrate in this country, and if we celebrate bounce-bounce-throw..."
He's interrupted by a call from Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle. After sacrificing approximately half a second for pleasantries, he jumps right back onto the pulpit, this time preaching to Lingle. She's already a big FIRST supporter, but Kamen wants more. New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, he tells her, has pledged to make Kamen's state the first in the union to have a FIRST team at every high school. Kamen is trying to spur a race between the two states.
"You rarely see him eat, because when other people are eating, when their mouths are full, he's got a captive audience," says Vince Wilczynski, a FIRST game designer and dean of engineering at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Kamen admits that he's shameless about pushing FIRST on anyone within earshot, bartering for favors and never missing a chance to rally support, be it in the form of time or money. "When I'm in a room, people around me hear a sucking sound," he says. "That's me trying to take any bit of energy they have left and redirect it to FIRST."
Kamen has no trouble justifying his relentlessness. Every spring, he sees the thousands of kids massing at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, home to the FIRST championships, and thinks, One of these kids is going to cure cancer someday. "We're playing with the laws of large numbers here," he says. "You've got to look at the probability of outcomes." In fact, the formula is pretty simple: The more problem-solvers you have, the more problems they will solve.
Already, he estimates, a million people have competed at FIRST games. Ten percent of MIT's freshman class last year were FIRST alums. According to a 2005 Brandeis University study, compared with non-FIRST students, FIRST students are significantly more likely to go to college, get graduate degrees, and volunteer in their communities. More impressive still, they are twice as likely to pursue careers in science and technology, and four times as likely in engineering.
But for Kamen, it's not enough. FIRST should be a competitor to the Super Bowl, not the science fair. "Dean has always said that we're going to change the culture of the country," Flowers says. "But he thought at the end of the first FIRST season, after we'd shown that it works, that it should take off." It didn't, at least not to Kamen-satisfying levels. After 18 years, FIRST is not in every school; it's not even in 10 percent of schools. And scientists are not celebrities. "Everyone else involved sees FIRST as hugely successful," Kamen says. "The way I see it, we've barely scratched the surface. Most kids in America have never even heard of FIRST."
Maybe FIRST is a victim of Kamen's uncompromising nature. Maybe his scorn for "bounce-bounce-throw" is getting in the way of creating a truly popular culture-changer. "Football works because we all know what's going on in the game," says fellow inventor Greg Harper, who is part of a faction of FIRST insiders who want to make the game more entertaining. "As it's played now, it's not a spectator sport. We'll know we succeeded when FIRST is televisable. Even Kamen agrees with that." Besides the teams, only parents, teachers, sponsors and mentors fill the stands, and even they have a hard time following what's going on, partly because the game — the rules of the match, the designs of the robots — changes from year to year. And what doesn't change, like the scoring and alliance systems, is so convoluted and unique that Kamen actually patented it.
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?