Bay Area not-for-profit design firm KIDmob specializes in organizing fun and exciting project based workshops for kids and students that focus on design and STEM education. The group recently held their latest Superhero Cyborgs workshop that connected kids aged 10 to 15 with upper-limb disabilities with professional 3D designers and engineers to create the 3D printable prosthetic arms of their dreams. The goal of the workshop was to help kids reimagine the possibilities of prosthetic limbs and move beyond standard, boring prostheses and create assistive devices that suited their personal needs.
One of the reasons that 3D printing has become such a valuable tool for the disabled is because it gives them the ability to create customized prosthetic limbs and devices for a fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics. Prosthetic devices are even more of a struggle for children because their bodies are continuing to grow, while prosthetic devices do not. It isn’t uncommon for a child to outgrow a prosthetic limb in a year, so when you consider that a typical prosthetic limb can cost thousands of dollars and take months to fabricate most families simply cannot afford to continually replace them. However 3D printed limbs usually take less than a day to 3D print and assemble and can cost as little as $100.
The Superhero Cyborgs workshop wanted to not only provide new limbs to the children that participated, but they also wanted to teach them the skills that they would need to continually adapt, alter or replace their limbs as needed. The group of kids spent a week learning about 3D design, prototyping, 3D printing, plaster casting, electronics, sewing, and working with thermoplastics at Autodesk’s state-of-the-art design and fabrication workshop Pier 9 in San Francisco, CA.
“What happens if we address a missing limb as a blank canvas rather than a disability? Kids are some of the most creative folks around. At Superhero Cyborgs 2.0, kids will create their own superpowers via personal wearable devices – a potential alternative to their upper limb prosthetic,” said KIDmob of the event.
The Pier 9 facility has just about every tool that you can imagine inside of its individual workshops, including 3D printers, CNC machines, woodworking tools, metalworking equipment, textiles and sewing supplies and even an electronics lab. If it can be designed, built and fabricated they can do it and the participating children had access to everything. The workshop gave them five days to learn how to develop an idea and take it through the entire design, prototyping and fabrication process. Each participant was teamed up with an expert to help them out along the way, and they will continue to be mentored by the Autodesk designers and engineers after the workshop as they grow and their needs change.
So what kind of awesome cyborg powers did the children give themselves? The designs that the kids came up with were as off the wall as you can imagine a group of kids with the power to build anything in the world could be. There was a bow and arrow attachment, a Nerf gun holder and a cool glitter shooter that was named “Project Unicorn.” One of the kids even designed a poker device device with the sole purpose of annoying his brother. Twelve-year-old Sydney Howard created a water cannon that could be activated simply by bending her elbow. She plans to continue working with her mentor to increase the water pressure so it will shoot further and build a bigger reservoir to hold more water.
Here is a video about Aidan’s prosthetic arm developed at last year’s event with his mentor Coby Unger
While many of the designs that the kids create at the Superhero Cyborgs workshops are just for fun, they can also be easily adapted to more useful assistive devices that kids can use in their everyday lives. With the skills that are being taught to them the kids can easily design and 3D print devices that will hold eating utensils, help them play video games and even play musical instruments. You can find out more about KIDmob on their website, and you can take a virtual tour of Autodesk’s amazing Pier 9 facility here. Discuss this latest even in the KIDmob 3D Printing forum over at 3DPB.com.