e-NABLE_logo_500x5001While superheros are often dismissed as adolescent power fantasies or childish wastes of time, for many of us who grew up reading comic books we knew that they were so much more. A superhero was someone who put their life on the line to help other people, often with little to no recognition of their heroism. It was understanding that when you are given great power, it also comes with great responsibility. Being a superhero was a promise that you would willingly and without hesitation put other people’s needs above your own, and use your gifts to help those less fortunate than you. Heroes like Superman, Spider-Man and Iron Man may have been power fantasies, but they were power fantasies that encouraged young readers to use their powers to help others in need.

Obviously none of us have spider powers, are the last surviving member of an advanced and powerful alien race or are brilliant philanthropists who can build amazing suits of armor. But that doesn’t mean that many of us don’t start out in life with gifts that other people don’t, or that we’re less of a hero because our gifts don’t involve punching criminals while wearing spandex. Heroes in the real world take many forms, from the firemen who rush into burning buildings to the teachers who give of themselves to educate our children to the powerful who choose to stand up for the powerless rather than exploit them. A hero can be anyone in life who refuses to stand by and do nothing while there are others in life who could use a hand.

Just a few of the many kids that Silva has helped over the last two years.

Just a few of the many kids that Silva has helped over the last two years.

There are a lot of heroes who work for Enabling the Future, the non-profit that designs, 3D prints, assembles and fits children and people in need with inexpensive prosthetic arms. The worldwide network of engineers, educators, makers, artists and families numbers in the thousands, and all of them use their skills and privileges to make someone else’s life just a little better, often for no other reason that it is just the right thing to do. One of those unsung heroes of e-NABLE is Christian Silva, a mechatronics engineer who works with a Bogotá, Colombia-based group of volunteers who help local children and adults receive free or low cost prosthetic devices.

I think he likes it.

I think he likes it.

For two years Silva has been 3D printing prosthetic arms, often with no outside resources other than what he could contribute himself. Just on his own he has personally 3D printed and fit more than twenty individuals with new arms, not to mention giving countless hours of his time to improve and customize designs that he has willingly shared with the rest of the e-NABLE community. The latest project that he’s sharing is the 3D files for a “Superhero e-NABLE” arm that he and his team created for a young boy who was born missing his right arm. The Iron Man-themed arm was based on the Flexy arm design that was created by Silva himself, the Flexy hand 2 and the RIT arm. The project also had contributions made by Wilmer Garcia, Tarragona, Recreartech, M3D Foundation and the entire e-NABLE Colombia team.

The Iron Man-themed arm was created specially for José, a young boy who was brought to visit Silva by his father about a year ago looking to be fit with his very own superhero arm. Sadly, José was only two years old at the time and Silva was worried about small parts detaching and becoming choking hazards. But he and his team of volunteers still decided to work on a design that José could be fit with as soon as he got old enough. They were inspired by the work being done by Open Bionics and Limbitless Solutions, who had created their own superhero arms for children, who had already created amazing superhero-themed prosthetic arms.

3D printed parts for Jose's Iron Man arm.

3D printed parts for Jose’s Iron Man arm.

Over the next year Silva and his team would work on José’s new arm while continuing to provide prosthetic arms to other local children. As you would imagine, in some of the poorer areas of Colombia and Latin America there are always children in need, and never enough resources to help everyone. José’s father even signed up to be an e-NABLE volunteer and help assemble prosthetic hands, and he was even able to help paint the final Iron Man arm that Silva and his team finally were able to finish for José.

José, age 3, tries out his new Iron Man arm, created for him by e-NABLE volunteers from "Give Me Five" in Colombia. - photo courtesy of Christian Silva

José, age 3, tries out his new Iron Man arm, created for him by e-NABLE volunteers from “Give Me Five” in Colombia. [Photo courtesy of Christian Silva]

But how did a three year old take to a prosthetic arm? Just take a look for yourself:

If you’re local to e-NABLE Colombia or simply want to help Silva and the rest of the volunteers you can find out how by visiting his website, stopping by their Facebook profile and checking out all of the videos on Silva’s YouTube page. And as always you can find local e-NABLE groups in need of help or volunteers by visiting Enabling the Future and becoming a superhero yourself. Do you know anyone who needs a 3D printed prosthetic arm? Discuss these services in the e-NABLE Iron Man 3D Printed Prosthetic forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: e-NABLE]
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