Dean Kamen

Invented IBOT, a battery-powered wheelchair that can climb stairs and the Segway.
Winner

With a passion for inventing, Dean Kamen has devoted his career to enhancing human capabilities through technology and innovation, and exciting young people about science and engineering. In 2002, Kamen was awarded the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for these commitments, particularly his medical technology breakthroughs such as the stair-climbing Independence™ IBOT™ Mobility System, revealed in 1999. The IBOT™ is a battery-powered wheelchair built from sensors, microprocessors and gyroscopes that can climb stairs and stand upright on two wheels, empowering handicapped people to see and move at eye-level.

While studying at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1972, Kamen first ventured into medical technologies to conquer a problem his brother encountered as a medical student—precise, controlled drug delivery over long durations. Kamen invented a wearable, programmable infusion pump that delivered small, accurate doses of medicine, such as insulin, over extended periods. His portable device enabled previously confined patients to be mobile and live normal lives.

In 1981, Kamen started DEKA Research & Development Corp., a core institution for his ideas and research. Among the many inventions launched by DEKA are a portable peritoneal dialysis machine, developed in 1993 for Baxter, that enables patients to undergo dialysis in the comfort of their own homes; the Hydroflex™ Irrigation Pump, an irrigation pumping system; and an improved flexible stent.

The most recent invention to spring from DEKA is the Segway™ Human Transporter (HT), which Kamen unveiled in 2001. The Segway™ is an electric powered personal transportation machine that moves by shifts in one's body weight. Kamen hopes that the public will adopt his self-balancing machine for traveling short distances, hence reducing pollution and congestion.

Kamen donated his $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize money to his non-profit organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). Established in 1989, FIRST serves to inspire and motivate young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. FIRST conducts a national robotics competition and has created the FIRST LEGO™ League competitions. Kamen has additionally created SEE Science Center, an interactive learning center in Manchester, NH to promote science education.

Born in Long Island, NY in 1951, Kamen holds 150 patents and has received the Heinz Award in Technology, the Hoover Medal (1995), the Kilby Award (1994) and the National Medal of Technology presented by President Clinton (2000).

In 2005 Segway LLC introduced the Segway XT—a modification of Kamen's original design to handle rough terrain with minimal environmental impact.