Feb 5, 2016 | By Kira

Autodesk recently teamed up with KIDmob, a non-profit ‘kid-integrated design firm,’ to give six kids born with upper-limb differences the chance to completely re-imagine life as they know it via supercharged 3D printed prosthetics, each imbued with a unique ‘super power’ that the children designed themselves. In the process, the kids, aged 10-15, were given a crash course in 3D scanning, 3D design, 3D printing, sewing, soldering, and much more, all under the guidance of professional designers and engineers in Autodesk’s state-of-the-art Pier 9 venue.

10-year-old Jordan shows off her 3D printed, glitter-shooting prosthetic

KIDmob regularly hosts workshops for children with and without disabilities, exposing them to 21st-century skills via project-based learning. Superhero Cyborgs, and the subsequent Superhero Cyborgs 2.0, sponsored by Autodesk, is one of these workshops, giving children the chance to design and build “potential alternatives to upper limb prosthetics,” while asking the critical question: “What happens if we address a missing limb as a blank canvas rather than a disability?”

We’ve seen countless times in the past just how much difference a 3D printed prosthetic can make in a child’s life. Custom-fit and more affordable than traditional prosthetic devices, 3D printed hands, arms, or other prosthetic limbs enable them to more easily perform everyday tasks and play with their peers. Recently, a special 3D printed prosthetic enabled an 8-year-old-boy to ride his BMX. Yet the vast majority of 3D printed prosthetics, both for children and adults, end up looking the same: cyborg-like, five-fingered hands, ones with hooks or pinchers that aren’t adapted to real-life.

Instead of asking children to wear something that might actually make life harder, Superhero Cyborgs invites them to reframe their ‘disability’ as a unique opportunity: you might not have a hand, but with 3D printing technology, you could have nearly anything else. When framed this way, a detachable bow and arrow, an elbow-activated water gun, or a five-nozzle glitter shooter, were just some of the enhancements kids decided they’d rather have than a boring old hand.

Autodesk, the CAD software company, became involved in Superhero Cyborgs 2.0 when two of its former interns, Phume Mthimunye and Maya Kremien (graduate students at the California College of the Arts), heard about the workshop. Autodesk immediately decided to jump on board with this motivational project, providing financial support for the families to travel, as well as freeing up their renowned Pier 9 office to be used as the venue. KIDmob co-director Kate Ganim, co-founder Kady Franson, Autodesk 3D printing researcher Andreas Bastian, and California College of Arts student Noam Zomerfeld also pitched in their respective skills and creativity to help the kids out.

Throughout the five-day workshop, the six eager kids were taught how to 3D model using Autodesk Fusion 360 and TinkerCAD, 3D scan, 3D print, and more. On multiple occasions, the children demonstrated their independence, creativity, and determination to overcome obstacles to make the project work. On the last day, the children proudly presented their prototypes to an audience of more than 40 adults.

“Design is creative problem solving—it is bringing ideas to reality. Our workshops are very active, with lots of improv, hands-on making, discussion and sharing, and playful discovery,” said Ganim in an interview. “The kids had a blast [and] all took ownership over their individual body mods, and were excited enough about the work they did to confidently and articulately share their work and experience in front of a group of 40-plus unknown adults at Pier 9,” she adds.

Each finished, custom-fit 3D printed prototype is imbued with a ‘super power’ that fully reflects each kids’ personal interests and individuality. “Project Unicorn” by 10-year-old Jordan Reeves is a 3D printed prosthetic arm enhanced with a five-nozzle glitter shooter. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Sydney Howard created a dual-water-gun arm activated by her elbow movement for epic water gun battles.

Kieran Blue Coffee, 13, based his “Nubinator” on an e-NABLE hand. It includes LED lights and an aluminum, weight-lifting attachment. Riley Gonzalez, 10, designed a detachable bow and arrow, and David Botana, 13, went out all with his “Sport Splint,” a purple splint with various attachments forshooting a Nerf gun or even riding a horse. Practical yet undeniably fun, these are the kinds of creative ideas that could only come from a child’s mind, and with 3D printing technology, they can now exist in real life.

Even though the workshop has come to an end, the Superhero Cyborg 2.0 project is far from over. KIDmob and Autodesk have ‘buddied’ each participating child with a professional designer with whom they will work over the next three months to refine and enhance their prototypes. Autodesk has agreed to continue supporting the participants with a range of tools and resources.

Also in the works is a plan to bring a similar workshop directly into classrooms, packaging it into a curriculum that teachers could access via Project Ignite, Autodesk’s open learning platform, so that even more children could benefit from it. For now, 3D printing and assembly instructions for one of the 3D printed hand prosthetics are available via Instructables.

Not only is the Superhero Cyborg workshop an effective way to give children back their confidence and freedom by providing them with a custom-made, 3D printed prosthetic werables, it is also inherently empowering, giving them practical experience in some of the most sought-after technologies of the day, including CAD design and 3D printing.

Truly a great example of how 3D printing technology can not only inspire, but physically improve people’s lives, we hope to see KIDmob’s Superhero Cyborg’s project grow so that even more children, disabled or not, can learn about these technologies while creating practical devices for members of their community.

Aidan's New Arm from Pier 9 on Vimeo.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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