Dean Kamen Talks Houston & Building Robotics “Super Bowl” For Kids

Xconomy Texas — 

Houston—Dean Kamen’s inventions include the iBot, a powered wheelchair that can “walk;” the first portable insulin delivery system; and a robotic prosthetic arm made for the military as he built his firm Deka Research and Development. (Also, you may have heard of this other invention he had: the Segway.)

Houston played a pivotal role in his company’s success, he said. “MD Anderson, they became the largest customer,” he said. “We got started on that real commercial relationship.”

Kamen was a keynote speaker at this year’s Medical World Americas conference, held in Houston this week. The discussion topics included personalizing care with big data, trends in digital medicine, and how entrepreneurship is disrupting healthcare.

During his address, Kamen gave the audience a 30,000-foot tour of his 30-plus years in innovation, as well as what is clearly his favorite project—FIRST, an annual robotics “Super Bowl” designed to encourage kids to take an interest in science and engineering.

Founded in 1992, the 2017 FIRST competition will be held in Houston next spring. Kamen said he wants to make scientists, engineers, and technologists as inspiring to kids as rock stars and athletes.

“I love to see kids passionate about algebra, trigonometry, calculus. But there’s no Super Bowl for that,” he said. “It’s got to be the equivalent of the Super Bowl with superstars. Otherwise, it’s just a science fair.”