Celebrity inventor and engineer Dean Kamen—known best for inventing the Segway—is promoting a new device that could help solve humanity's problem with polluted water. Moreover, he's enlisted corporate goliath The Coca-Cola Co. to help deploy his scaled-down industrial water purification system called the Slingshot.

blog post photo
Children in Africa helping themselves to some clean water produced by the Slingshot. Photo courtesy The Coca-Cola Co.

(Editor's note: I became aware of this while attending a robotics event at my son's high school, which is an engineering-based magnet. Kamen established FIRST—an abbreviation of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology—which is an organization that uses robotics competitions to promote the benefits of engineering and science education. To these students, Kamen is definitely a celebrity.)

In its announcement of its effort with Kamen in September, Coca-Cola stated: "In 2013, the intent of the partnership is to deliver millions of liters of clean drinking water to schools, health clinics and community centers in rural regions of countries within Africa and Latin America." After that, the company added, the effort would reach into the Middle East and Asia.

Coca-Cola added that Kamen's firm, DEKA Research and Development, conducted field trials of the technology during 2011 in Ghana, reportedly "providing 140,000 liters of clean drinking water to 1,500 school children over a six-month period."

blog post photo
Image courtesy The Coca-Cola Co.

Kamen describes his motivation for the Slingshot this way: "Get rid of bad water and you wipe out half of all chronic human disease." In short, the device boils dirty water and then creates clean water.

Youtube video posted by The Coca-Cola Co.

While the above video provides a quick description of the Slingshot, I encourage readers to check out this short film by Paul Lazarus—the video I saw at the robotics event—which delves further into the ideas and technology that is driving Kamen's latest effort. It's only a little over three minutes long, and well worth the viewing.

In it, Kamen contrasts his company's approach to the world's water problem with that of entities such as the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

"Global organizations, I don't think, understand that the 21st century problem needs a 21st century solution," Kamen says in the video. Instead, he adds, "They work on top-down, government-to-government big programs."

(The Lazarus video is part of a filmmaker competition called Focus ForwardThe contest, which uses the slogan, "Short Films, Big Ideas," is sponsored by GE.)

It's something to think about during this holiday season.