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Inventor Dean Kamen Encourages Rose-Hulman Students to Realize their Dreams

May 11, 2012

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Dean Kamen in teleconferenced forum at Rose-Hulman    

This week, students engaged Dean Kamen, one of the world's foremost inventors, in an exclusive virtual forum that explored the nature of innovation.

Kamen is a popular figure for inventing the product now known as the Segway PT, an electric, self-balancing human transporter with a sophisticated, computer-controlled gyroscopic stabilization and control system. However, Kamen also holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents, many for innovative medical devices that have improved health care worldwide. His inventions include the first portable infusion pumps for insulin -- now also used in chemotherapy and many other applications - which he developed while still an undergraduate student. In 1976, Kamen founded AutoSyringe, Inc., to manufacture and market the pumps, and later sold that company to Baxter Healthcare Corporation in a multi-million dollar deal.

During the virtual forum, student Hobey Tam asked Kamen how an inventor stays on top of innovation and avoids getting into a rut. In response, Kamen revealed his tendency to focus on the initial stages or "front-end" of new product development, leaving the production to others: "If you develop a great product that works well, and lots of people use it, you will spend 5-10-15-20 years developing and servicing that product. I would rather be able to work on 10 to 12 different products."

Student Luke Wooley asked Kamen how medical/biomedical engineering would meet the challenges of the future. And Kamen explained that medical and biomedical engineering is ripe for innovation. "It has never been a better time for what we know and what we need (in health care)," stated Kamen to the students. "Applying engineering to health care is a great value."

But Kamen acknowledged that demands on the field will be greater.

"The real challenge in the world of biomedical engineering," Kamen said, "is not only to find ways to keep supplying new miracles, but to make better solutions that are also cheaper." 

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Students take advantage of rare opportunity


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Kamen is the founder of FIRST Robotics, a worldwide technology competition program for students K through 12 which he founded to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders. These competitions have ignited creativity and innovation among today's youths. "Kids need a reason to learn different technology," he said. "They need to see the relevance." Millions of young people today get their first engineering experience through FIRST competitions.

Graduating seniors will get another opportunity to meet the creative genius later this month as the college's commencement speaker.