Dean Kamen has a track record that makes it compelling to listen to him when he talks about innovation. The founder of DEKA Research and Development Corp. has invented the insulin pump, a portable dialysis machine, the iBot mobility system, the Segway people mover, a prosthetic arm for DARPA, and a self-contained water cleaning and purification system, among other things.
Kamen believes the United States is lagging behind other countries in terms of educating and inspiring our youth to become innovators. We take invention for granted because we have so much technology around us. However, in developing countries, people are willing to take risks at much lower investment levels.
The US has the lowest percentage of kids going into science and technology in the world. We also have the highest percentage of kids dropping out of high school in the world. “Innovation should be thought of as a gift from one generation to the next,” Kamen says.
One generation enjoys the benefits of the previous generations' innovations, but it must create new innovations to support the successive generation. Kamen believes we have a culture problem where it is the tech industry — not lawyers and politicians — that needs to support a long-term serious commitment to science and technology.
Kamen says we need to get involved in fostering enthusiasm in science and technology in children. Through a program named First, Kamen makes science and engineering more fun. A Brandeis University study showed that First program alumni are 50 percent more likely to go to college than their peers, and twice as likely to major in science and engineering. To learn more about how you can get involved, go to www.usfirst.org.