Rolling onto the stage in the Palestra on a Segway – the invention that he created in early 2001 – Dean Kamen discussed technology and innovation in his Meliora Weekend speech on Oct. 11.
“What’s consistent in any project is failure,” Kamen said. “Get used to it. Innovation is inexorably connected to failure.”
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently recalled the Segway, which can reach speeds up to 12 miles per hour, after some riders fell off of the device when the battery power was low.
For the first 20 minutes or so, Kamen delivered his speech standing on a Segway.
Kamen particularly emphasized the way in which technology builds upon itself, citing the development of Segway as an example – while developing the gyroscopic technology necessary for his stair-climbing wheelchair, Kamen realized that the technology could be applied to a transporter for the non-disabled, as well.
The Segway – many, many failures later – was the result. Kamen imagines the Segway – which costs roughly $5,000 – as a vehicle to replace automobiles in large cities, where their mobility is impeded by traffic.
With more than 150 U.S. and foreign patents to his credit, Kamen spent the majority of the symposium discussing the U.S. For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology program, which aims to encourage young students to develop self-confidence, along with interest in science and engineering. Students compete in regional events pitting their robotic creations against each other in over 800 teams nationwide. Over 26,000 young people have participated in the program.
Quoting Thomas Edison, Kamen said, “I never failed – I just found 14,000 ways not to make a light bulb.” In discussing the act of inventing Kamen said, “it feels wonderful – like love.”
Referring to the bulldozer, Kamen asked, “What are you going to with [the technology] – are you going to build or knock things down?” Though Kamen clarified that he believes “technology is not a solution to problems – it’s an amplifier.”
In closing, Kamen said, “Over the next decade, the challenge will be to figure out what to apply technology to so the world will be a better place.”
Annual women’s leadership awards available
The University Women’s Leadership Awards, given annually to undergraduate women, are currently available, with application by nomination.
Four prizes commend women at UR for their efforts in leadership, dedication to the community, and commitment to women’s rights.
Nomination of awards candidates are due to the Office of the Dean of Students by Oct. 31. A nominee must complete an application by Nov. 26. The award winners are announced in December, and honored at a dinner in the spring.
“On behalf of the university community,” Associate Dean of Students in charge of discipline Matt Burns said in a memo, “I thank you for your involvement in this annual celebration of students who have distinguished themselves through their achievements, service, and contributions to the common good.”
Reporting by Masha Chepovetsky, Neil Janowitz, Chadwick Schnee, Helene Snihur, Karen Taylor and Taylor Yunis.