Inventor of medical devices, the man behind the Segway, and FIRST backer Dean Kamenvisited the Phoenix area yesterday and today and we were lucky enough to have people from PADT invited to two different events at which he spoke. For engineers involved in product development, this is like a visit from an NFL quarterback for most people. He turned out to be open, engaging, and a very good speaker.
We could go on in adoration and explore the guilt and envy we feel after seeing all that he has done. Instead we thought we would highlight two things we learned from his visit:
- The FIRST program that he started and still heads is making a huge difference in this country and around the world. PADT has been peripherally involved, focusing instead more on the underwater robot scholastic competitions that are very popular here in Phoenix. But FIRST is now huge, and is still growing. But what we learned is the positive impact it is having: Students who participate in FIRST are 3 times more likely to become engineers, 30% more likely to attend college, and twice as likely to volunteer in their communities. Those are some positive numbers. Those of us in the engineering world should take advantage of that and support FIRST.
- Second, he offered a unique perspective on how engineers see the world. When he was young he heard the story of David and Goliath. Most people see a religious message in this story, there are various interpretations. But as a child, Dean Kamen did not see those messages. What he saw was that David won because he had better technology. He had a sling shot. That is how he beat the giant. I found that a very interesting point of view. If you don’t get it, ask an engineer.
If you ever have the chance to explore what his company, DEKA, is currently doing with a revolutionary power generation and water purification solution for areas of the globe without power or clean water, do so. It is very leading edge stirling engine and distillation technology.