"I just don't like being constrained and I frankly don't like other people arbitrarily judging what I do or telling me what to do or how to do it," said Kamen. "I always felt I'd rather do something on my own, and if I fail, OK, I'll learn, and if I succeed, I'll change the game, but I'd rather let history judge what I did, not a textbook."
Despite Kamen's less-than-stellar academic performance, he's a big proponent of education and his First program.
"It's impacting what these kids do with their time and adjusts their expectations of what their career opportunities are," he explained. "It creates relationships between kids and professional engineers that they literally could not have imagined six weeks before this."
First's goal is to make science, math, engineering and technology "cool," something Kamen believes is important in turning these fields into attractive ones for the nation's youth.
"There isn't a kid [who participates in First] who doesn't believe that science and engineering and technology isn't every bit as fun and rewarding or accessible as sports or entertainment," he said, "which were the only two fields where they could see public role models in our culture."
During last year's program alone, more than 70,000 students participated in First.
Whether meeting former President Clinton, attending one of the First regional championships, pulling another day at the office or just taking his Segway for a ride, Dean Kamen's signature bluejeans and dress shirt say a lot about the man behind the creations.
"People always say to me, 'Why do you always wear jeans,'" he said. "I say, 'I don't always wear jeans! If I'm sleeping, I'm not wearing jeans, if I was in a swimming pool, I wouldn't be wearing jeans.'"
"I just wear jeans because that's what I wear when I'm working. But if I'm awake, I'm working, so that's what I wear."