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Dean Kamen, a self-professed geek, is passionate about igniting a spark in students to share his love of science and technology.

The world-renown inventor, who holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents and is best known for creating the battery-powered Segway scooter, shared that passion Wednesday addressing the 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference.

He talked abut his numerous inventions, but his main focus was on a competition he created for students, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization dedicated to motivating the next generation to understand, use and enjoy science and technology.

Founded in 1989, this year FIRST will serve more than 300,000 young people, ages 6 to 18, in more than 50 countries around the globe. High-school-aged participants are eligible to apply for more than $15 million in scholarships from leading colleges, universities and corporations.

“In 2011, I decided I’m was going to need a better spotlight on FIRST because it wasn’t getting a lot of awareness,” he said. “So I heard will.i. am of the Black Eyed Peas was going to do the half-time entertainment at the Super Bowl in January, so I asked if he would come do a half-time show for FIRST.”

The entertainer agreed after Kamen said will.i.am would make it cool for students.

“He told me he couldn’t make it cool, because I already was doing that, but he could make it loud,” said Kamen.

That was the beginning of the “Make it Loud” awards handed out during the championships.

“Last month, I decided whom to give the award to this year,” said Kamen. He extolled Gov. Rick Snyder’s encouragement of science learning and said the 2015 Make it Loud” award goes to him.

“There were more rookie high school teams in the state of Michigan this year than rookies in the rest of the country combined,” he said to thunderous applause from the audience.

He said the competition now is held in 83 countries.

SLewis@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2296

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