“Most people today look at technology and see magic,” inventor-entrepreneur Dean Kamen told Newsweek last December. Kamen’s creations may indeed seem magical, from the two-wheeled personal transporter called the Segway to health care innovations, such as the first wearable insulin pump for diabetics, that have transformed daily living for many.
But Kamen’s commitment to his calling transcends any single invention, as he is passionate about bringing young people into the field and heightening the profile of science and technology in education and society. In short, if technology seems like magic, he wants to ensure an ample supply of magicians.
One of his proudest creations is FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization dedicated to motivating the next generation to understand, use, and enjoy science and technology. This year, FIRST’s student competitions in robotics will involve nearly 33,000 high school students in 1,300 teams; and more than 92,000 9-to-14-year-olds in 45 countries will take part in FIRST’s LEGO League competitions.
Born on New York’s Long Island, Kamen attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute, during which time he developed the interest in medical technology that led him to produce the insulin pump. His inventions since then have included the HomeChoice portable dialysis machine and the Independence iBot, a “super-wheelchair” whose sensors, microprocessors, and gyroscopes allow people with mobility impairments to negotiate stairs and broken terrain. Kamen’s most recent projects include systems to purify water and generate electricity in resource-poor regions.
He is the founder and president of DEKA Research and Development Corp., of Manchester, N.H., where he pursues both proprietary inventions and initiatives for corporate clients. Kamen received the National Medal of Technology in 2000 and the Lemelson-MIT Prize in 2002, is a member of the National Academy of Engineers, and in May 2005 was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.