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Kids Design Their Own ‘Superpower’ Prosthetics

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Kids Design Their Own ‘Superpower’ Prosthetics

Living with a prosthetic limb can be as emotionally as physically challenging, especially for children. Not too long ago, we featured Alleles, a Canadian design studio that is making artificial leg covers fashionable. Now, a kid-integrated design firm called KIDmob is empowering kids to actually design their own prosthetics.

Through 3D modeling and printing, technical drawings, power tools and the supervision of KIDMob experts, children are given the opportunity to dream up fantastical abilities–like shooting water from a five-nozzle glitter water gun attached to their arm, or propelling into the air with jet-boots.

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“We’d like these kids to begin to solve their own problems and create their own solutions, recognizing that they have options beyond what is available on the market,” Kate Ganim, KIDmob’s co-director, told The Huffington Post. “Also, we’d love for the kids to see themselves as super-abled rather than disabled.”

Through KIDmob’s five-day Superhero Cyborgs 2.0 workshop, children with upper-limb deficiencies came together alongside a volunteer prostheticist, California College of the Arts graduate students, and professional designers to imagine their own “superpower.” They then learned how to build their design and present their prototypes to an adult audience. Along the way, they were taught skills such as 3D printing, scanning, plaster casting, and sewing, not to mention the courage to overcome perceptions of limitation.

Ganim, whose sister was born without a hand, first stumbled across a company that specialized in 3D-printed machined limbs in 2014. She decided to leverage KIDmob’s technical capabilities to see if she could test print and make a robotic hand. With her success on the project, she opened up the idea to children in the community.

“We were seeing kids accepting these devices with a lot of excitement about having this ‘cyborg’ arm,” Ganim said. “Which, as designers, led us to wonder why we’re limiting the functionality to that of a typical hand, when these devices could do almost literally anything—and things way cooler than hands are capable of doing!”

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While Ganim created these workshops to inspire children, the youngsters certainly inspire her as well. After 10-year-old Riley Gonzalez struggled to construct a detachable bow and arrow during the workshop, the KIDmob crew offered him a pre-made template that he could customize during the remainder of the time. Riley, though, refused.

“He asked if it would be OK for him to continue using the pieces he was already working with to come up with a solution on his own,’” Ganim said. “Figuring things out was the reason why he came to the workshop. That was the fun part for him.”

Check out how KIDmob engages children like Aidan in the video below:

Images: SARAH O’ROURKE/AUTODESK

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