The Wire @ WPI Online
VOLUME 13, NO. 3     June 2001

WPI awards first Presidential Medal to inventor Dean Kamen

Dean Kamen í73, inventor of life-changing medical devices and founder of FIRST, a program that seeks to inspire young people to pursue careers in science and engineering, received WPIís inaugural Presidential Medal on March 30.

The award was established to honor outstanding individuals from all walks of life who, through their professional or personal deeds exemplify the ideal of the "technological humanist" that is at the heart of WPIís approach to education.

Kamen accepted the medal during his recent keynote appearance at the 14th annual meeting, on the WPI campus, of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science & Technology.

"Ever since humans harnessed fire, made stones and sticks into tools, and invented the wheel, the ideas, insights and surprises associated with technological advances have made life an endlessly fascinating journey," WPI President Edward Alton Parrish said as he presented Kamen with the medal. "Couple a passion for social progress with extraordinary technical prowess and an entrepreneurís talent for product design, production and distribution, and itís easy to understand the upward spiral of Dean Kamenís career of contributions."

Driven to show youngsters that mathematics and science can be fun and exciting, Kamen in 1991 founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit group that holds an annual contest in which high school students work in teams with engineers from sponsoring corporations and universities to design and build robots that compete against one another in events modeled after sporting contests.

Dean Kamen receives the Presidential Medal from Mass. Academy Principal Pauline Lamarche and Harold Hilsinger, professor emeritus of physics

While still a WPI student, the restless Kamen, who believes that youngsters should admire scientists and mathematicians alongside rock musicians and professional athletes, invented the worldís first portable drug-infusion pump. Today he oversees DEKA Research & Development Corp. in Manchester, N.H., which specializes in advanced medical technologies, including the IBOT, a revolutionary stair-climbing wheelchair.

Kamenís numerous awards and honors include the National Medal of Technology and an honorary doctorate in engineering from WPI. "The sweep of Dean Kamenís ideas and their applications are, in truth, universal," noted Parrish, who described Kamen as a "rambunctious son of WPI" and an "original and compelling thinker and a practical doer."

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Last modified: Jul 05, 2001, 16:31 EDT