TERRE HAUTE —
Inventor Dean Kamen gave a first-hand demonstration Saturday of how to be an innovator.
Speaking without notes or a script, Kamen created what he called “a contrarian’s view” to the commencement of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Class of 2012.
American society and the international community have seen hard economic times in recent years, he agreed, but he disagreed with the play-it-safe mentality that makes people cautious and less likely to take risks.
“People are not only willing to accept change,” he said, “but desperate. If you can come up with technology that meets needs, these are the best times to create technology that solves needs.”
As an innovator of new ideas and inventions, Kamen himself holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents. While still a college undergraduate, he invented the first wearable infusion pump in 1976. He sold it to a health care company, and now his invention is used in medical treatment worldwide. He also founded DEKA Research and Development Corporation to develop new inventions, and he founded an organization to inspire the future generations of technology leaders. He may be best known as the inventor of the Segway personal transportation vehicle.
“I’m jealous,” Kamen told the graduates. “You’re entering a world ready for big change. Don’t squander this opportunity.”
While he was serious about the possibilities for the future, Kamen also showed that a sense of humor is useful, too.
The graduation exercise was not about the graduates earning degrees, he informed the 358 students earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
“It’s about two things,” he said. “Parents, and grandparents. You should be thanking all of them.”
It is also not about putting an end to four years of hard work, and setting life on cruise control.
“The last thing this world needs is for the few smart people to use their education as a tool or weapon,” Kamen said. “We should be building things and putting them back into the world.”
The world houses 7 billion people, he said. For every RHIT graduate, there are 10 million people who did not graduate with an RHIT education or the opportunity to use that learned knowledge to help others.
Every day, he said, 2 billion people must find drinkable water, but only 2 million will find it. Another 2 billion will live each day without electricity.
“You are among the most privileged, tiny minority of your generation,” Kamen said. “Instead of seeing it as a privilege, you should see it as a responsibility.”
The engineers, scientists and mathematicians of today will be the ones solving the world’s problems, he said.
“It’s gonna be you, or it won’t be fixed.”
That was one of the reasons Kamen said he was “shamelessly recruiting” some of the new RHIT graduates to work in his company.
Kamen said when he spoke to the late RHIT president Matt Branam months ago about being the commencement speaker, Branam asked Kamen to impart advice to the students for being successful.
While Kamen said he deferred from that request, with the comeback that Branam had already had this crop of graduates in hand for four years and should have already prepared them for success, Kamen said he did come up with a simple list of 100 things to do to be successful.
The first is to “pick something important to do with all your knowledge and education.” The second is “don’t give up.”
“If you did No. 1 right, No. 2 is gonna be really hard,” Kamen warned, but by doing those two things, the other 98 things don’t matter.
All of the tough problems of the world have already been solved, he said, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more tough questions to ask and solutions to find.
“You make a life by what you give to the world,” he said. “Have a great life.”
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.
TERRE HAUTE —
Inventor Dean Kamen gave a first-hand demonstration Saturday of how to be an innovator.
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