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Dean Kamen at MIMC Fireside Chat
Pictures from the Fireside Chat with Dean Kamen May 29, 2003
                                                                                                                   
Dean Kamen spoke at the MIMC Fireside Chat on May 29, 2003, at the Harvard Faculty Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was interviewed by Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe, etc. The talk was off the record, so I didn't take careful notes and won't say much in particular. Most of the time was taken up by Dean answering Scott's questions about his upbringing and FIRST, as well as a question about the Segway (he gives long answers). Just one quote: "My hobby is thinking".

Having heard Dean speak more than once, I can tell you it is well worth it. He is a passionate, very entertaining speaker. His stories are always surprising, and, to an engineer, heartwarming.

In his discussions of FIRST Dean talks about how he wants to give high school kids heroes to look up to who are engineers and scientists, and not just sports and entertainment figures. He's looking for the "Michael Jordan's" of the engineering world to be emulated by kids. FIRST is his vehicle for that. Listening to his stories of what he's done and how and why, you see that he has in his mind an image of such a person, and drives himself to become an example of that model to emulate. That "walking the walk" and not just "talking the talk" example of his life is part of what's so inspiring.

Dean traces a life that goes from using technology, to learning that he can sell what he invents to happy customers to get money to build and learn more, to using that drive and devotion to problem solving to build things that help people, to learning how to learn more and more to help him solve harder and harder problems, to learning to not take "no" for an answer while being as audacious as necessary in how he gets what he needs, to taking on harder and harder problems after each success. (Each step there came with a fascinating 15 minute story.) At this point he's trying to change society's image of the type of success to strive for and helping as many kids as possible learn that the thrill and joy of participating in sports is no greater than the thrill of participating in an engineering project, and that they have a much higher likelihood of a successful career in engineering than bouncing a ball. He's also trying to solve the ever-growing problem of the urbanization of the world's population, and how that conflicts with cities built around using automobiles.

Here are some pictures to help show how animated he is, and what it's like to have him at an event.

First, the reception before:

   

   

The interview with Scott (yes, Dean's sitting down, not riding his Segway):


 

 

 

Dean answered questions afterwards:


 

Segway essays on this web site: Thoughts about the Segway HT: Why it's not just a scooter, Impressions after riding a Segway HT: Part 1, Segways in Atlanta. Also, a review of a book about Dean and the Segway, in my weblog.

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