Inventor Dean Kamen to receive inaugural Hunt Institute Visionary Award for Humanitarian Technology
SMU’s Hunter & Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity will present its inaugural Visionary Award to Dean Kamen, the humanitarian inventor behind the Segway human transporter and other technological breakthroughs, including devices helping those in the developing world.
Kamen will be honored at a dinner on Wednesday, April 13, during Engineering & Humanity Week – a series of participatory events focused on free-market solutions for those living in extreme poverty. Numerous speakers, panels, films and exhibits from around the globe as well as experiential learning opportunities will be featured on campus under the theme, “Redefining What’s Possible.”
Purchase tickets for the dinner here. (For sponsorship opportunities, please phone 214-768-3360.)
“We are honoring Dean Kamen for his success, his vision and his support in training a new generation of engineers who are committed to meeting the challenges of the developing world," said Hunter L. Hunt, who with his wife, Stephanie, founded the Hunt Institute to help find solutions to the most pressing problems of the impoverished. Kamen is currently working to perfect a nonpolluting, low-power water-purifying system, as well as solar-powered devices designed for use in underdeveloped countries. The inventor holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents – many for innovative medical devices that have expanded the frontiers of health care worldwide.
Dean Kamen was born in 1951, in Rockville Center, Long Island, New York. His father, Jack, was an illustrator for Weird Science and Mad comic books; his mother, Evelyn, was a teacher. Dean began tinkering with gadgets when he was fairly young. He claims that when he was five years old he invented a way to make his bed without running from one side to the other.
Despite the fact that he was obviously bright and very curious, Dean did not do well in school. His grades in junior high and high school were only average, and Kamen often found himself at odds with his teachers. This is an experience that many creative people seem to go through. For example, Thomas Edison (1847–1931), who developed the electric light bulb and the phonograph, attended school for a grand total of three months. His teachers considered him to be a slow learner. Instead Edison was taught by his mother at home, where he thrived, reading every book he could get his hands on. Like Edison, Dean was (and still is) an avid reader of science texts.
By the time he was a teenager, Dean was being paid for his inventions, most of which he built in his parents' basement. He was hired by local rock bands and museums to design and install light and sound systems. He was even asked to work on automating the giant ball that is lowered in Times Square each year on New Year's Eve. Before he graduated from high school, Dean was earning about $60,000 a year, which was more than the salaries of both his parents combined.
After high school Dean attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts, but again he was more interested in inventing than attending classes. It was during his early years at WPI that Dean developed the first of his many medical breakthroughs. His older brother, Barton, who was in medical school, commented to him that patients who needed round-the-clock medication were forced to come into the hospital for treatment. Dean decided to fix the problem. He came up with the AutoSyringe, a portable device that could be worn by patients and that administered doses of medication. As a result, patients were able to enjoy some freedom. In 1982, Dean sold AutoSyringe to Baxter International, an international health-care company. The sale made him a multimillionaire.
Following the sale of AutoSyringe, Inc., he founded DEKA Research & Development Corporation to develop internally-generated inventions as well as to provide research and development for major corporate clients. In 1989, Dean established FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) an organization dedicated to motivating the next generation to understand, use, and enjoy science and technology. One competition started and run by FIRST is the FRC or First Robotics Competition.
Dean of Invention, a TV show on Planet Green starring Dean and correspondent Joanne Colan, premiered on October 22, 2010. The two explore scientific breakthroughs around the world in a variety of fields including aviation, biotechnology, energy, nanotechnology and robotics. The goal of the show is to promote engineering and technology as fun, accessible, and important.
Norman Kary: Visionary artist creates the Visionary Award
Dallas artist Norman Kary created the inaugural Hunt Institute Unbridled Visionary Award with his signature painstaking care and artistry. Kary specializes in original works of art created in three dimensions—"a menagerie of found objects unified in the crucible of Kary's imagination," one writer described his technique.
"When people ask, 'What do you paint, what do you draw?' I say, 'Well, I don't do any of that, I kind of do found objects with collage,' " Kary explained to an interviewer once. "They say, 'You mean junk and stuff?' 'Junk, yeah, that's it,' he said with a laugh.
The sculptor, who has created commissions for some of North Texas' most famous names, isn't one to explain his creations, noting that he shares the trait of painter Edward Hopper who famously said, "If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint."
More about Norman Kary and his work can be found at his website.