In a small rural village in Uganda, a young boy named Amos grins from ear to ear as he watches the fingers of his new colorful 3D printed “Team Unlimbited” e-NABLE arm close with the bend of his elbow.
Amos is a very active and happy young man, despite having lost an arm and a leg after being attacked by an animal at a very young age. He loves playing soccer and dancing and brings joy wherever he goes!
He is a student at a primary school in Uganda, run by the non-profit group Arlington Academy of Hope, (AAH) a U.S. based program that offers primary school education and scholarships for high school and university level learning.
Maureen Dugan, executive Director of AAH shares, “Liz Langran, a teacher from Marymount University in Arlington VA had visited AAH last year and happened to meet Amos. When she returned from her trip, she told her colleague, a very active e-NABLE Volunteer Dr. Eric Bubar, about Amos and inquired about potentially producing a device for him. Liz returned to AAH and led a group of education students on a trip a few weeks ago to do teacher training. During the recent trip, she delivered the device.”
Liz shares, “In July I had gone on an advance trip for some planning of teacher workshops for AAH and for the AAH outreach schools. I spotted Amos, who has a prosthetic leg and had a stump below his left elbow. The AAH school is a special place, and in many parts of the world children with some type of physical limitation are frequently not in school. Since I knew my colleague Eric Bubar had been working with 3Dprinted upper limb e-NABLE devices, I approached him about the possibility of printing an arm for Amos.
I had asked Eric to record a few brief video clips of the printing of the arm. I decided we should show these first before bringing out the 3D printed arm, and it certainly got Amos curious. When I worked with Amos to grab a sock with his hand, Amos gave the biggest smile anyone had ever seen on his face. His arm was not truly strong enough to flex by himself, so he was helping it with his other hand, but a few days later at a school assembly he managed to flex it by himself. The principal had asked him to stand up and to thank “Dr. Eric” for his work, and to remind other students to be gentle with his prosthetic and that disability is not inability.”
Photographer Kate Lord shares, “I was visiting Arlington Academy of Hope with one of their major partners, She’s the First, to photograph and film scholars’ stories. This was my second time to AAH. The teachers, staff and students impress me so much each time with their talent and generosity. AAH is transforming their community by educating the next generation far beyond the level of their parents and empowering them to become the village’s future leaders.
Amos curiously watched the videos of Professor Bubar printing the arm and explaining its mechanics. I’ve of course heard the phrase “his face lit up” many times, but I’ve never truly seen it until Amos picked up his first sock with his new prosthetic hand. I am truly honored that I was there to document this moment for him.”
Dr. Eric Bubar explains,”I first started doing ENABLE hands when I had a student that wanted to do a project on 3D printing about 2 years ago. She was interested in how the hands were printed and the University had just bought a low-cost 3D printer. I challenged her to figure out if she could 3D print a Raptor Hand on our $500 Printrbot that looked like it came from a $3000 Makerbot! This was right before the e-NABLE Community’s Prosthetists Meet Printers conference at John’s Hopkins which my student attended and returned from with a good idea of how to assemble the hands and what they were supposed to look like.
She presented this work at an internal conference and student interest was HUGE. I decided to scrap my primary astronomy research and switch to printing hands right in the middle of my tenure pursuit (living life on the edge!). I started to print hands myself and have been involved with representing ENABLE at various events. I spent last summer getting more printers and teaching other faculty how to print as well (more on this in a moment). My research group began switching to 3D printing hands in the Fall of 2015 and has grown from roughly 4 astronomy researchers to 40 hand printers (fall 2015) and 50 hand printers (spring 2016).
Students have a TREMENDOUS interest in 3D printing in general and when they hear that they can print something that can make a huge difference in a child’s life, they are definitely on board. I’ve used many of these hands as demonstration pieces at various makerfaires and have started to expand into showing them to teachers at local schools (both elementary and high school). Occasionally I have even provided hand kits to high school clubs to get them engaged and involved.”
Dr. Bubar goes on to share, “Fast forward to teaching other faculty how to print, one of the faculty members I worked with (Elizabeth Langran) is an education professor who mentioned during her training that there was a student in Uganda (where she visits yearly to help out) who was in need of a full arm. We figured on a tentative plan for her to get measurements of Amos (the child who needed an arm) this year so I could possibly print an arm for him next year. Along came the release of the Unlimbited Arm. I printed a small test version and sent Elizabeth the measurement needs to see if maybe I could get something made for Amos this year. We got back measurements about 2 days before Liz’s departure date, and I kicked my printers into gear!
“I made all the necessary measurements and used the Team Unlimbited documentation to find out Amos needed about a 140% scale. Each piece was then printed using a variety of different printers and people (a real team effort!)” said Dr. Bubar, “My student (Max Hogan) printed the Phoenix hand pieces. I printed the Arm Cuff and tensioner system. A colleague in Interior Design (Doug Seidler) printed the gauntlet. The size of the pieces were large enough that they needed to be printed overnight. The next day, I came into work and all the pieces were ready (whew!) In between teaching, I managed to use the documentation videos to get the arm assembled and ready for delivery to Liz for transportation to Ghana. I bike to work, so I can imagine it was quite the site to see someone cycling along the bike trails with a robotic arm sticking out of his back pack! I delivered the arm to Liz that evening for her morning departure.”
Quite often we hear the phrase “It takes a village…” and sometimes we find out that it does indeed take a global village to change the life of a child. The e-NABLE Community is proud to share stories such as this, that show just what we can do when we work together, share ideas, donate our time and look at the world and ask ourselves “What we can give?” …instead of “What we can get?” from it.
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