Students investigate online the revolutionary "Segway" (personal transportation device invented by Dean Kamen). Students complete calculations and graphs comparing commute times and fuel costs between automobiles and the Segway. Students discuss non-cost, social and legal factors of the Segway.

KEY CONCEPTS

Choice, Cost/Benefit Analysis, Entrepreneurship, Legal and Social Framework, Technological Changes

STUDENTS WILL

  • Explain the major characteristics of an entrepreneur and an inventor.
  • Calculate a cost/benefit analysis of different modes of transportation.
  • Explain some of the major social and legal implications of the Segway.

INTRODUCTION

street"It" is finally here. Prior to its recent debut, many people wondered what the nickname "it" was. After a year of intense speculation, inventor, physicist and entrepreneur Dean Kamen unveiled the Segway Human Transporter in December, 2001. The Segway could change the transportation possibilities of millions for people around the world. Designed to use existing roadways and sidewalks, the Segway is expected to significantly lower fuel costs for commuters. In addition, the Segway will cause no add no additional air pollution and may even alter the scope of social interactions. Already being utilized by several corporate customers, the Segway is expected to be available for consumers by late 2002.

Read about the Segway at the company's web site

MATERIALS


PROCESS

Have the students print the  Segway to the Future Worksheet to use to answer the questions and fill in the charts.

An entrepreneur is a person who assumes the risk of organizing other resources to produce goods and services. After reading about Dean Kamen answer the following questions.

  1. How do you think he fits the definition of an entrepreneur and inventor?
  2. Identify or name some of his other inventions.
  3. Why do entrepreneurs take on these risks?

Read "Kamen's 'IT' is a scooter, after all " a USA Today article and answer these following questions.

  1. How are some companies already using the Segway in their businesses?
  2. How do you think the Segway will affect people's urban transportation choices?
Commuting costs can be very high for some workers.
 

Segway

Auto

One Day

$.05

$14

One Work Week

$.35

$70

One Month

$1.50

$280

One Year

$18.35

$3360


Using 5 cents per day as the estimated electricity cost of the Segway and expected gasoline of $1 per day for fuel cost of an automobile, $3 per day for insurance, and $10 per day for parking compare the Segway's fuel costs to that of the auto over a day, week, month and year time periods.

Create a bar graph with a two-color theme with key giving side-by-side comparisons of auto and Segway for each separate time unit.

Units for time are on the horizontal axis (day, week, month and year). Units for fuel costs in dollars are on the vertical axis.

 

fuel cost

Does the bar graph clearly state the cost savings of the Segway over the auto?

What is the net savings of operating a Segway over 5 years for one daily commute? [(365-18.25)x 5 = $1,733.75.]

Although the Segway has lower fuel costs than the auto, travel times by Segway might be higher than travel times with an automobile. Using a projected 10-mile commute (5 miles each way), the travel time is about 25 minutes each way on the Segway or a total of 50 minutes per day. In an urban setting with a 30-mph speed limit and traffic, intersections and lights, a 20-mph average in an automobile is a reasonable estimate. This would give a 15 minute travel time each way for the same 5 miles, or 30 minutes per day in an auto.

Using the following equation, calculate the commuting time difference between and automobile and the Segway on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
[(50 minutes -30 minutes ) X = total difference in time where X = number of days.]

  Equation Total Minutes Hours and Minutes
Daily (50 minutes - 30 minutes) 1 20 20 minutes
Weekly (50 minutes - 30 minutes) 7 140 2 hours and 20 minutes
Monthly (50 minutes - 30 minutes) 30 600 10 hours


Is this a fair comparison? Can you think of any reasons why the projected time loss using the Segway might be less? [Time to find parking for the auto, walk time to and from auto, traffic jams on streets, time to fuel car.]

For Discussion:

Should cities offer tax savings or other incentives to Segway users for relieving the strain on urban roadways and reducing air pollution?

Some cities have already stated resistance to the prospect of Segway operators on their sidewalks and streets. Discuss what governmental objections to the Segway might be. [Urban transportation plans may have been made years ago, not providing for this type of mobility; uncertainty concerning how the Segway might fit into current traffic laws for roadways and sidewalks; fears over possible litigation from pedestrians having to share their sidewalk space.]

ASSESSMENT ACTIVITY

Dean Kamen is described as an entrepreneur and inventor. Can you think of other Americans in the last 10-20 years who might also be described that way? [Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Steven Jobs of Apple.]

Write an individual essay offering solutions, processes and ideas to integrate the Segway into 21st century United States or even into international use.

Create an advertisement showing the benefits of the Segway.

CONCLUSION

Assuming you live in an urban setting, list several ways in which you could fit the Segway into your lifestyle. [Work, social, entertainment and recreation.]

Even if the Segway has lower fuel costs, some people might still prefer to drive an automobile. Can you think of people in our society who would be more likely to purchase a Segway? [People with physical disabilities that prevent operation of an auto but not a Segway; people living on fixed incomes or those needing to cut expenses; environmentally-concerned people wishing to improve air quality or overcrowding in their community; trendsetters who like to be the first to accept and utilize new products or innovations.]

After looking at various aspects of the Segway, does it appear that Dean Kamen is an entrepreneur? Since an entrepreneur assumes some risk, what risk do you see Dean Kamen assuming with the Segway? [The risk is that it won't attract customers and thus fail.]

Innovation is defined as the introduction of something new or creative. After reading about the Segway, do you consider it to be innovative? Why?

EXTENSION ACTIVITY

You may want to take this opportunity to survey the class to form a demand curve using this overhead.

Related Lesson:
What Make's an Entrepreneur: An EconEdLink lesson that explores the concept of entrepreneurship through discussion and on-line activities. This lesson would be a good introduction to entrepreneurship for both the student and teacher.
 

EDUCATOR REVIEWS