The SXSW Interactive Featured Session Feature: Dean Kamen of FIRST

Written by Hugh Forrest | March 5, 2014

Featured Sessions at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival showcase some of the world’s most innovative thinkers. Today’s installment of the Featured Session Feature focuses on Dean Kamen of DEKA and FIRST. At SXSW, catch his session “Equipping and Inspiring the Next Generation” on Sunday, March 9 at 11:00 am.

The passion that Dean Kamen feels for science and engineering runs deep. The American inventor and businessman holds over 440 patents, countless awards, and has been creating and innovating for over four decades. Kamen may have come into the spotlight after inventing the Segway, but his extensive portfolio of inventions has had a far-reaching impact on numerous industries.

Much of Dean’s work has been focused in the medical device industry. As an undergrad at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Kamen developed a wearable infusion pump that revolutionized the healthcare field. Shortly after, he founded his first business, AutoSyringe, Inc. During his time at AutoSyringe, he focused on developing additional infusion machines designed to help simplify the lives of patients suffering from serious health conditions such as cancer and diabetes. In 1976, Baxter Healthcare purchased Kamen’s first company.

Dean went on to launch his current firm DEKA shortly thereafter. The research & development company has partnered with private clients in the medical field to create innovations that have improved patient care and health outcomes significantly. Notable inventions spearheaded by Kamen include DEKA and Baxter International’s HomeChoice dialysis system; a photopheresis machine created to help treat patients suffering from T-Cell lymphoma; the IBOT electric wheelchair that can travel over almost every surface; and an advanced prosthetic arm developed in partnership with DARPA to improve the quality of life for soldiers injured on the battlefield.

His love of engineering extends far beyond his company. In 1989, Dean founded For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a non-profit that is focused on inspiring and encouraging budding scientists and inventors. FIRST is a global organization with school-age programs in place in over 50 countries worldwide. Programs include the FIRST Tech Challenge, FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST Lego League, and FIRST Junior Lego League.

More than one million children have participated in FIRST programs and initiatives since the organization’s launch. Dean considers FIRST to be one of his most notable accomplishments. Most recently, DEKA have partnered with The Coca-Cola Company on the development and installation of the Slingshot water pump. The pump serves as a highly portable, water purification device that can purify up to 365,000 liters of water annually. Kamen’s Slingshot is currently being installed in a number of communities across Africa and Latin America that don’t have reliable access to clean water. The revolutionary device is expected to have a far-reaching impact on global water purification.

Dean Kamen may have become a household name after his company invented the Segway, but his passion for creation has revolutionized several industries and his inventions have improved the lives of countless people around the world.

To learn more about Kamen, watch his TED talks on the power of invention or follow his current projects at DEKA Research. Or, better still, see him at SXSW 2014!

Register now to be part of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival and to attend the “Equipping and Inspiring the Next Generation” session on Sunday, March 9. For the full picture of all sessions and evening events at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival, visit the day-by-day schedule. Also, learn more about the best of the best programming for the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival by visiting the new Recommendations page.