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If you see Mark Sherman bearing down on you atop his two-wheel motorized vehicle, you don’t have to leap off the sidewalk to avoid getting run over.
“You don’t need to go dodging out of my way like I’m out of control,” says the computer engineering student. “The thing can maneuver within fractions of an inch. I can stop on a dime. You don’t need to worry. I know what I’m doing.”
The “thing” is a Segway, a computer-controlled, electrically powered gyroscopic transportation device invented by Dean Kamen and introduced to the public in 2001.
Although they sell in the $4,000 to $5,000 range, Sherman bought his used on E-Bay for $2,500 from a man who works at DEKA, Kamen’s Bedford, N.H., company.
Sherman actually has met Kamen and visited the inventor’s home in his role as technology coordinator for First Robotics, a robotics competition program that Kamen created for high school students.
Asked why he bought a Segway, Sherman says, “For the immense coolness of it. It’s a sophisticated piece of equipment, a new technology being applied to a new use.
It’s really a very economical and effective way to travel in a city like Lowell.”
While living in an apartment in Lowell last year, he explains, he could go anyplace in the city on his Segway. He used his car only on weekends to drive home to Worcester ߝ with the Segway stashed in the trunk.
“Now I live on UML South,” he says, “and I move between campuses in five or six minutes with minimal worries about traffic. Unlike a bike, you can go slow and maintain stability. I can travel at a nice slow walking pace and can cross University Avenue bridge in a pack of people.
“When I go to class I turn it off and leave it in the hallway. It operates with a
64-bit encoded security key like the ones used in building systems. Without the key it doesn’t do anything. It’s just an 85-pound paperweight.”
The battery-powered Segway is only 29 inches wide, can fit through a standard doorway, has a maximum speed of 12.5 miles an hour and can travel eight to 12 miles without recharging ߝ a process achieved by simply plugging it into a standard electrical outlet.
“It’s very useful,” says Sherman. “It’s totally worth it for me. It’s quick, convenient and it burns no fuel. It’s cheap to operate because it takes only about 10 cents worth of electricity for a full charge. Some days it would cost more than that to run a toaster. I love the thing.”