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Why isn’t Dean Kamen on a Wheaties box?

Why do we pay so much attention to sports heroes and celebrities, when the people doing the work to advance humankind are virtually invisible?

Over four years ago I wrote a similar post to this one about scientist and inventor Ray Kurzweil. My son was 10 years old and had to choose a “hero” and write about what made them one. When I saw the list I was appalled and emailed his teacher to ask why current and contemporary inventors, scientists and visionaries were excluded?

60 Minutes had a piece last night about the US military working on something akin to a “Manhattan Project” for prosthetics. This is certainly a response to the huge numbers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan maimed from war in unprecedented numbers.

The firm they worked with was none other than Segway inventor, Dean Kamen and his DEKA group. Many of us have already seen the video about the prosthetic arm developed under a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Amazing doesn’t do it justice.

From a wheelchair that can climb stairs and allow the user to ‘stand up’ to talk at eye level with others to the Segway and a Stirling engine water purification system for small villages, Kamen and crew are taking big ideas and manifesting them in to a reality that is changing the world. 

Yes, I realize that not every kid can be an Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison or Ada Lovelace, but reaching for a dream allows a kid to accomplish much more than if they don’t, and though sports achievement can impact many other areas of someone’s life, an inventor mindset means that a kid learns to look at every process, method, possibility or vision they have, and to figure out how to make it more efficient or to leap forward in a revolutionary way.

Compare that to the ability to slam dunk a basketball and answer this question, “Do you want your child to aspire and emulate some NBA star, or instead become an inventor like Kamen and make a difference in the world?