“SlingShot”: How an Innovation Mindset Can Change the World


Here’s the most astounding quote from the documentary “SlingShot”. (Follow updates on the movie @SlingShotDoc.)

“We could empty half of all the beds in all the hospitals in the world by giving people clean water.”

When I heard that sentence, my jaw dropped. For two years living in the developing world I saw firsthand the public health problems associated with water, something we take for granted in the developed world. I also heard horrific stories from some of my students in Tanzania who had to walk miles to get water in unsafe conditions- at night or miles from home.

I’m inspired by people who use an innovation mindset to tackle the world’s problems. As a parent and an educator, I am inspired by Google’s Jaime Casap, who often asks his own kids (and encourages us to ask ALL kids): “What problem do you want to solve?”

Inventor Dean Kamen wants to solve the water problem.

The award-winning film “SlingShot” focuses on Kamen and his work to solve the world’s water crisis.

From the press release about the film:

Dean Kamen invented the Segway and lives in a house with secret passages, a helicopter garage, a closet full of denim and a massive 19th-century steam engine filling its atrium. His latest passion: the SlingShot water purification system created to obliterate half of human illness on the planet. Kamen reminisces about developing home dialysis technology and choosing to forego parenthood while lamenting he has only one lifetime for inventing.

SlingShot is an inspiring portrait of an American legend who might just have enough passion and innovative thinking to create a solution for a crisis that affects billions.

In 2013 veteran Theater and TV Director, Paul Lazarus debuted a short documentary at the Sundance Film Festival that was the first look at this inspiring feature-length film that has won numerous awards along the film festival circuit.

Here’s what people are saying about Dean Kamen and the documentary “SlingShot”

“It’s one of those films you want your 9 to 15-year-old children or grandchildren – as well as their parents and teachers – to watch…This inspirational documentary shines a light on the work of a brilliant man who is actually changing the world, one invention at a time.”

– Pat Burns, Grand Magazine

“It’s a beautiful and important film…At the core of SlingShot we have an individual. A human and his story. But, we also have a human problem, a huge one, one that affects millions of people across our globe and a problem that happens to have a solution in reach….Seeing this film may change you.”

– Susannah Greenwood, Artsalot

15 Guiding Questions

At Getting Smart, we got in touch with the team at SlingShot and they provided a list of discussion questions that could be used to generate conversation with your children or students after watching the documentary. Note: Many of these questions could be great conversations even if you have not seen the documentary. 

  • List items you use every day. Do you know who invented them?
  • Why do you think 50% of all human illness comes directly from bad water?
  • Who would be on your wall of your 6 most famous people? Why?
  • Where does the water in your home come from? Do you use a purification system?
  • How does water distillation work?
  • What is a ‘vapor compression distiller’? Why does it take so little energy to function?
  • In developing countries, why is it only women that search for usable water?
  • If you had a time machine, what would you do with it?
  • Why didn’t the SlingShot water stay clean when people used it in Honduras? How would you help people understand the best way to use the clean water?
  • Compare the importance of oil and water.
  • How can you personally use less water?
  • What were the problems with the Slingshot machines placed in Ghana?
  • What parts of the world would most benefit from getting a SlingShot machine? Why is it hard to get the machine to these places?
  • What are some of the problems with our drinking water in the United States?
  • What technologies were resisted in the past? What technologies do people say will never happen today?

For related posts about innovation mindset, see: