Students at the Technion, from the faculties of Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Science are working with Prof. Alon Wolf’s Biorobotics and Biomechanics lab (BRML), in a very extraordinary project. Together they design, produce, and distribute free prosthetic hands to children.
These prosthetic hands can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For a child who is growing constantly, it is impractical to even buy one.
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The students have perfected a method to make the mechanical and robotic hands inexpensively on a 3D printer. The children are involved in the design of their hands, the colors, and logos. They can even view it in comic-book heroes’ terms such as Iron Man’s hand or Superman’s hand. That makes a big difference to them.
Children who were shy and ashamed before become proud of their new hands. From not being able to catch a ball and do other simple tasks their lives are greatly improved.
With the final prosthetic the children are able to hold lightweight objects such as a ball or a cup of water and provide them with a better sense of balance. But they can not move each individual finger. The most immediate benefit is psychological, as the children now have a “cool bionic hand” to impress their friends with.
Not only children in Israel can receive bionic hands. Palestinian children in Gaza Strip and the West Bank were also given hands, as was one child in Syria. The hands were even sent to children in Brazil and the UK.
The Technion is working on this unique project with Haifa 3D and the global organization E-Nable which since 2013 offers prosthetic limbs, for free. E-Nable co-founder Jon Schull visited Israel a year ago to give a lecture about his non-profit organization in Haifa. E-Nable’s community creates and shares open-source designs for assistive devices.
Prof. Alon Wolf, The head of BRML and Technion Vice President for External Relations and Resource Development explains, “This is one of those outreach activities that has a large impact on society and educates our students to become leaders, not just technological or entrepreneurial leaders but leaders in impact; the impact they bring to society with the knowledge they acquire at the Technion during their studies. This is the beauty and strength of the Technion.”