More Dean Kamen

As many readers know, i’m a huge Dean Kamen fan. I think he’s one of the most important Americans alive.  He’s a true thinker and doer in every since of the word.  He sets goals and attacks them with passion and intelligence.

There’s a new article in the Telegraph UK about him.

It talks about some of his old inventions (150 medical patents and, of course, The Segway) and some of his new ones such as the iBot (wheelchair that stands), the Power Arm (robotic arm for people missing the limb), an electric car that uses the Sterling Engine. It also mentions:

Kamen’s latest project may well be his most ambitious yet: he wants to bring electricity and clean water to the Third World. His plan is not the creation of centralised infrastructure for power grids and sewage treatment, but a small-scale and, relatively, cheap solution. ‘Like, how about a device that a couple of people can haul into a village that can turn any source of water – which is typically toxic these days, that kills two million kids a year – into a thousand litres of water a day. How about if we could carry something into a village that could give people a way to make electricity?’

After 12 years working on these two problems, the engineers at Deka now have their solutions on show at the workshops in Manchester. The first is the ‘Slingshot’, a large box about the size of an office photocopier, sheathed in black protective foam, that can cleanse water of any contaminant from radionuclides to sewage, and run for years at a time without maintenance. The second is another metal box, five feet square, connected to a bottle of compressed gas, which emits a low murmur of humming energy. This is a Stirling engine, similar to the one installed in his electric car, but large and efficient enough to electrify an entire village, which can be driven by any locally available source of heat. Both devices have already been proved amazingly effective: one six-month test has used a Stirling engine to provide electric light to a village in Bangladesh, powered by burning the methane from a pit filled with cow dung; Slingshot has undergone similar tests in a settlement in rural Guatemala. But Kamen has yet to find a commercial partner to manufacture either of the devices for the customers that need them most. ‘The big companies,’ he says, ‘long ago figured out – the people in the world that have no water and have no electricity have no money.’ He’s tried the United Nations, too, but discovered a Catch-22: non-governmental organisations won’t buy the devices until they’re in full production.

The article also talks about his fancy and cool toys. For instance he owns a small island….

Dean Kamen on one of his inventions, the Segwa...

Image via Wikipedia

But there’s also North Dumpling Island, three acres of gravel and sand in Long Island Sound, home to a lighthouse with a library and wine cellar that Kamen bought for $2.5 million in 1986. Soon afterwards, he announced his intention to erect a wind turbine there – and when New York State authorities objected, he declared that North Dumpling would become an independent nation, with a territorial limit of 200 inches. He now likes to refer to himself as Lord Dumpling, and will tell anyone who will listen about his fiefdom’s currency (the 250,000 Dumpling note features a pen-and-ink portrait of Kamen himself, wearing a bow tie and a cap with a propeller on it), newspaper (The North Dumpling Times) and customs regulations (a printed visa form includes spaces to provide distinguishing marks of both the applicant’s face and buttocks). Kamen appointed friends and family to positions in the Dumpling cabinet, including Ministers of Brunch and Nepotism, and now keeps a copy of the artificially yellowed North Dumpling Constitution behind glass on an upstairs wall at Westwind.

Although he’s often labelled a failure because of the limited success of the Segway, it’s clear he remains an optimistic and driven guy.  Saying: “I’m more than happy to let history answer the question of whether my ideas are stupid, or important.”  Considering his inventions are already helping every person who needs an insulin pump, I’m pretty sure History will look back at him pretty damn favorably

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