Iconoclast : Dean Kamen

We have all heard of the Segway, the amazing individual traveling gizmo. It is an idea that gets us that much closer to the future, to a more sustainable and simple concept of living. The inventor behind this is Dean Kamen, who is more than just an engineer and entrepreneur. He is an advocate for a better way of life. His role as an inventor is strengthened by his passion for using science and technology to our advantage. To creating practical solutions for problems that exist in the world, some being a matter of life and death.

(yup, that's me)

As an inventor, he holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents, many of them for innovative medical devices that have expanded the frontiers of health care worldwide. These inventions allow him to work on his many free-flowing ideas. Ideas that can very much change our world.

Two of those ideas which have been built and put to use, are each about the size of a washing machine. One, a basic generator, makes a kilowatt off of literally anything that burns. Last year, prototypes of Kamen's power machines were installed in two villages in Bangladesh for a six-month field trial, using cow dung as the power source. Each machine could continuously output enough to light 70 energy-efficient bulbs.

The second invention, called the Slingshot, is a water purification system that comes easily bundled and ready to use. The Slingshot works by taking in contaminated water -even raw sewage - and separating out the clean water by vaporizing it. It then shoots the remaining sludge back out a plastic tube.

Imagine the possibilities. More than that, imagine what these simple tools would do for such communities. The market potential is astonishing – about 1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water, and another 1.6 billion don't have electricity. How’s this for an incentive? Kamen says we could potentially "wipe out 50% of human disease." If that’s not an indicator to take action, I don’t know what is.

So, why hasn’t this caught on yet? It is obviously a life saver and a great investment for any company. What is the problem?
Why aren’t we saving lives?

Because, as Dean puts it, the idea is the easy part. Creating something that is needed is simple. The hard part is changing people’s minds. Making them believe that new ideas are smart ideas, that science and technology IS the answer. If I had $100,000 this would be the best way to pay it forward.

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