“My mother taught us that we’re supposed to help change the world…We’re supposed to help make it better. That’s why we did it.” - Albert Manero, UCF Aerospace Engineer – on why he created a 3D printed robotic prosthetic device for 6 year old Alex Pring.
When you are 6 years old and you have finally come to that moment where you just found yourself slowly shuffling your feet down the hall toward your first day of kindergarten…backpack heavy with school supplies and snacks …trying to figure out if you are holding too tight to mom’s hand or if she is holding too tight to yours…and then you stand in the door to peer around and see the faces of the children you will spend the next 10 months with..you usually expect to get asked who your favorite super hero is, which video games you play or how many teeth you have lost already.
For Alex Pring, who was born missing his right arm from just above the elbow – those were the last questions he was faced with. His least favorite part of starting school, was repeatedly having to answer the question, “What happened to your arm?”
Alex prides himself on the fact that he accepts himself for who he is, the way he was made and that he can do a whole lot of things that kids with two arms can do… but admits that now that he is getting older and growing – some things are becoming harder to do.
Now, thanks to Albert Manero, a University of Central Florida Aerospace Engineering Doctoral student and his team – Alex has the first 3D printed e-NABLE Myoelectric arm that runs off of servos and batteries that are actuated by the electromyography muscle energy on Alex’s bicep!
While Alex can do quite a few things he hasn’t ever been able to do up until this point now that he has a robotic arm … the first thing he wanted to do when he learned how to use his new limb – was to give his mom a hug with two full arms for the first time in his life.
Manero and his team, manufactured the arm for less than $350 and they will be uploading their design and instructions on how to build the child-sized arm and hand to the internet so that anyone with access to a 3D printer can get the files and give another child the same opportunity that Alex has.
Albert is one of e-NABLE’s hidden gems. He introduced himself back in July of 2013 and shared that he was planning to take the original 3d printable snap together prototype design and improve upon it … and then… a year later he is a part of our new myoelectric group – sharing with them his incredible knowledge and letting them know that he has taken various design ideas from the e-NABLE community and the Flexy hand design by Steve Wood of Gyrobot (also a member of e-NABLE!) and turned them into the first myo-design for Alex!
In the fall, when Alex walks down the hall toward his classroom for the first day of 1st grade – he will not be timidly shuffling his feet across the carpet…he will not be worrying about the awkward stares of his new classmates or their curiosity about the absence of his right arm…he will be ready to answer that “Who is your favorite super hero?” question with a very proud – “ME.”
For the full story about Albert, Alex and the $350 3D printed myoelectric arm design – please visit the University of Central Florida’s blog HERE.
All images by the very talented KT Crabb Photography!