FIRST Robotics Founder

It helps to know a few things about FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). First of all, FIRST was founded by Dean Kamen. Who is Dean? After learning about him, you'd think he would be a household name. Well, to thousands of kids, he is! The last time I saw Dean there was a long line of autograph seekers.

Dean is many things including an inventor. 1 Have you ever seen people riding on those strange looking upright scooter thingies, The Segway? That is one of Dean's inventions. That's right. Dean invented the Segway Human Transporter, as well as, the first wearable drug infusion pump, the first portable insulin pump, the first portable kidney dialysis machine, the Crown Stent designed for Johnson & Johnson, and the Independence IBOT Transporter (wheelchair that climbs stairs, rough terrain and balances the rider upright at eye level). One of his new projects is a water purification system being designed to help provide clean drinking water to an estimated 1.1 billion people lacking potable water.

"His passion and determination to help young people discover the excitement and rewards of science and technology are the cornerstones of FIRST." He has a vision "to create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes ...."2

On more than one occasion, Dean has succeeded. At the 2008 regionals held at Drexel, the thrill of being such heroes was evident when people cried tears of happiness over Wissahickon's victory. Another example was at the 2006 world championships. A man came out on stage in a wheelchair. Unbeknown to the crowd, the wheelchair was an Independence IBOT Transporter. The gentleman rolled over to Dean and the chair stood the man up so they were eye to eye. When the man thanked Dean for giving him this ability... for providing this humane treatment... the crowd was brought to tears. What more can be said about a man who has brought so many tears of JOY to the world?

And, is Dean a superb showman? A while back, when he was in middle school, he invented a light box that could be plugged into a stereo and pulsed to the music. As soon as he was old enough to drive, he got a job in New York city and ended up at the Museum of Natural History. He attempted to show his light show to the chairman but was thrown out.

"That provoked Kamen. For the next couple of weeks, he worked day and night in his basement, designing a light show. Then he used his pass to enter the museum and wired his box into the planetarium's light system. Just like that. He found the chairman and gave him the news. "You've done what?" asked the chairman.

Before he could be thrown out, Kamen convinced him to have a look. When Kamen flipped the switch, the rotunda burst into illumination. The chairman looked around slowly, then invited Kamen to his office and asked: "How much would this system cost the museum?"

Kamen was a kid. It seemed to him that his whole future depended on his answer, because he had quit his summer job and risked all his earnings. Working in the basement, he had dreamed about pocketing the immense sum of $US1000. So he swallowed hard and asked for twice that much.

The chairman walked around his desk. On one condition, he said: Kamen had to do the same thing for the other three museums under the chairman's care. Four museums for $US8000. Kamen's gamble had paid off. By the time he graduated from high school, he was selling light boxes to local rock bands and building customized audiovisual presentations that synchronized multiple slide projectors." 3

Needless to say, Dean knows how to put on a good show. Or, maybe it should be said, Dean knows how to put on a really, really good show! That is exactly what spectators of FIRST events experience.


1 No Man Is An Island, Nick Ravo, The New York Times (1988)
2 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Website (2008)
3 One Helluva Ride, Steve Kemper, The Sydney Morning Herald (2003)
4 Wissahickon's Team 341 / Miss Daisy Website (2008)

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