The Mil & Aero Blog
Thursday, September 3, 2009
  Kudos to Kamen, kids, and contractors

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

My hat is off to Dean Kamen, famous inventor of such innovations as the Segway PT, and mil-aero industry players, such as Rockwell Collins and General Dynamics. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a Manchester, N.H.-based organization founded by Kamen to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology, has launched various technology challenges, designed to foster imagination, innovation, and collaboration among children and adults, community and industry, government and academia, and more.

FIRST has announced the 2009 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge: Smart Move. Smart Move challenges 146,000 children, ages 9 to 14, in more than 50 countries to explore robotics solutions to issues in modern transportation through hands-on, minds-on teamwork.

A long-standing sponsor of FIRST, Rockwell Collins has provided more than $1 million in support of FIRST programs, sponsoring hundreds of teams and events at the elementary, middle, and high-school levels in the U.S. FIRST executives have named Rockwell Collins the Official Program Sponsor for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC).

"The announcement recognizes the distinct role Rockwell Collins will play as the primary official sponsor of FTC, the newest and fastest-growing FIRST program available to students in grades nine through 12," says a company representative.

As a FIRST Strategic Partner, Rockwell Collins employees serve as volunteers, leading teams and providing technical mentorship, coordinating regional events, and judging robotics competitions.

"When you excite students with hands-on experiences and reinforce classroom learning with creative applications of content from textbooks, kids get motivated and want to learn," says Clay Jones, chairman, president, and CEO of Rockwell Collins.

An estimated 1,300 FTC teams are expected to compete in 60 official FTC tournaments across North America for the upcoming season. More than 10,000 participants will be involved in FTC events, which culminates in the FTC World Championship, April in Atlanta, Ga. Participants will be joined by teachers, parents, and university and corporate mentors as well as prominent regional and national leaders in business, government, education, and the media.

Other FIRST Tech Challenge sponsors include FTC CAD and Collaboration Sponsor, PTC, and FTC Program Sponsor, General Dynamics.

Smart Move comprises two phases. In the project phase, teams identify a problem with the way people, animals, information, or things travel in their community, create an innovative solution, and share it outside the team. In the robot phase, teams apply robotics, sensor technology, and fresh thinking to solve the problems.

Personally, I have spoken with several children between the ages of six and 14 who have not yet given any thought as to what they would like to do after high school, for a vocation, for the community or world at large, and so on. I appreciate that industry innovators are investing in the future, and getting today's youth to start thinking about technology, invention, and ingenuity, and how to apply them to solve current and future challenges.

If you know of other industry firms or individuals who are making a difference in the mil-aero community or world at large, please post the info here or in the Command Post community, or e-mail me at They deserve recognition and kudos.
More news (and some interesting inventions) about Kamen and innovation follows. (My thanks to Kelly for e-mailing.)

Internationally renowned inventor, entrepreneur and thought leader, Dean Kamen of Manchester, NH, can add another prestigious award to his resume when he accepts BioMed SA’s Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and the Biosciences. BioMed SA, is a non-profit corporation founded in 2005 to help grow and promote San Antonio’s thriving healthcare and bioscience sector. The award honors individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to advance the healthcare and bioscience fields. Kamen, founder of DEKA Research & Development Corp. and of the non-profit organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), will accept the award at BioMed SA’s annual Palmaz Award dinner to be held in San Antonio on September 17, 2009.
Dubbed the “Dean of Innovation,” Kamen has received numerous other awards for his many, significant innovations in biosciences and engineering, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, awarded in 2000 by then-President Bill Clinton for both having advanced medical care worldwide, and for awakening America to the excitement of science and technology. The Medal is the highest honor for technological achievement, bestowed by the President of the United States on America's leading innovators.
Kamen holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents, including the first wearable insulin pump, the HomeChoiceTM portable dialysis machine, the wearable AutoSyringe that delivers accurate doses of medication throughout the day, a low-cost water filter for under-developed countries, the Stirling hybrid automobile engine that also produces electricity, and the SegwayTM Human Transporter.
In 2005, Kamen was approached by a Department of Defense official about developing a more functional prosthetic arm for soldiers returning from Iraq with one or both arms missing. “I didn’t expect anything to come of that meeting,” Kamen told Newsweek magazine. “This turned out to be an extraordinary opportunity to do some extraordinary technology.”
Named the “Luke Arm” after Star Wars character Luke Skywalker, the strap-on, surgery-free arm under development can adapt to various control schemes – from foot pads and pull switches to more advanced methods – to suit patient preferences.
“BioMed SA is proud to honor an innovator who has spent his whole life helping others overcome the challenges in their lives,” said Henry Cisneros, BioMed SA Chair and former mayor of San Antonio. “His ongoing work with the U.S. military to develop a robotic arm to restore functionality for wounded warriors is of special interest to San Antonio, which is becoming the home of military medicine.”
Kamen said a greater commitment to education and cultivating a desire to learn among young people is key to the country’s global leadership in the biosciences. “I think we’re entering a golden age in understanding life in terms of genomics, and there are large areas where you’re going to see breathtaking innovations in the next five to 10 years. The innovation coming out of San Antonio will help move us toward that golden age.”
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