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Teen Inventor Uses 3D Printing to Revolutionize Prosthetics

Health & Wellness  (tags: creative, ideas, health and wellness, prosthetics )

- 1709 days ago -
"I would never have imagined that something I made in my bedroom would be shaking hands with the President," says 17-year-old Easton LaChappelle. But that's exactly what happened when LaChappelle got to visit the White House Science Fair -->

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Kit B (276)
Monday September 16, 2013, 5:16 am
Photo Credit: Al Jazeera America

"I would never have imagined that something I made in my bedroom would be shaking hands with the President," says 17-year-old Easton LaChappelle. But that's exactly what happened when LaChappelle got to visit the White House Science Fair and present the robotic prosthetic arm that he 3D-printed and built in his bedroom lab.

Kosta Grammatis travelled to LaChappelle's home in Mancos, Colo., to meet the young inventor and find out how he went from Legos to NASA before being old enough to vote.

"I'm hoping to give someone a functional prosthetic arm for under $1,000," LaChappelle declares. The self-taught teen began experimenting with robotic limbs in 2011, when he built his first hand out of Legos, fishing line and servo motors. Frustrated by the high cost of modern prosthetics, he then sought out to develop a more affordable option for amputees.

LaChappelle built his first prototype out of electrical tubing, but for the next one, he sought out more realistic materials. "I wanted to get a more human shape," he explains. "That's a big thing for prosthetics is psychologically, it has to be appealing to the user and also to others."

So he learned modeling software and gained access to a 3D printer, printing incredibly detailed parts and constructing a functional prosthetic arm that interfaces with the human brain--all in his bedroom. The innovation garnered him public notice for its low production cost, accessibility, and functionality, and the teen inventor even got to do his very own TED talk.

"I think a lot more people are taking notice of what he can do on a 3D printer and realize his vision of making a prosthetic arm at a very low cost," says Patrick LaChappelle, Easton’s father.

"He's a self-starter and he totally figured it out himself,” says Julia Whelihan, his mother. While some parents might be concerned about the amount of time their teen spends alone in their bedroom, it became clear to the LaChappelle’s family that Easton was hard at work on something important. “Apparently his room has become where creativity just took off,” Whelihan laughs. “It was happening right under our nose."

LaChappelle also spent time learning about the functions and limitations of the human hand from Mary Oswald at the San Juan Hand Therapy Clinic.

"I learned from anatomy," LaChappelle explains. "I was trying to understand the human limits of the arm and find all the boundaries. Then I want to capture all of that and eventually, hopefully, surpass human strength."

His determination to learn and innovate impressed Oswald, who appreciates the meaningful impact affordable prosthetics could have for patients in need. "The most meaningful thing that Easton taught me is how a person can go so far with an idea and have that idea turn into something that can help humanity," Oswald says.

LaChapelle's accomplishments helped him land an internship at NASA, where he is working on the Robonaut project at the Johnson Space Center, a dream job for the self-taught lover of robotics.

"If I can go through my life doing what I'm doing now, that would be a dream," LaChappelle says. Changing thousands of lives would just be the icing on the cake.
***** Watch short Video ****

By: Meredith Kile | Al Jazeera America |


Bryna Pizzo (139)
Monday September 16, 2013, 8:58 am
Thank you for the amazing news. What an ingenious young man!

Sheryl G (363)
Monday September 16, 2013, 10:55 am
Wonderful, bright minds using today's technologies.

JL A (281)
Monday September 16, 2013, 11:37 am
Marvelous initiative and positive use for this emerging technology!

. (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 12:53 pm
Nice to see technology being used to create something positive rather than a destructive one such as a machine pistol.

Jamie Clemons (282)
Monday September 16, 2013, 1:48 pm
I can imagine all sorts of odd things being 3D printed.

Jamie Clemons (282)
Monday September 16, 2013, 1:49 pm
Oh and yes Michael someone has already designed a 3d printed gun that is functional but is single shot not a machine gun yet.......

Dori Grasso (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 2:31 pm
NICE. I hope this kid gets a full scholarship to a first-class technical university!

Birgit W (160)
Monday September 16, 2013, 2:37 pm
Wonderful, thank you.

Terry V (30)
Monday September 16, 2013, 3:15 pm
Thank you and shared

Past Member (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 6:32 pm
nice technology

Past Member (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 7:48 pm
Hope something good comes of this.

I agree with Jamie too........

Patricia H. (440)
Monday September 16, 2013, 8:14 pm

Karen Chestney (112)
Tuesday September 17, 2013, 1:17 am
A great example of why education is important for all children. Ya just never know what they can think up. Great article, Thanks.

Helle H (21)
Tuesday September 17, 2013, 6:58 am
Wow, he's really good.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday September 17, 2013, 7:07 am

What if this young man had been forced to spend at least 50% of his time in science class discussing religious beliefs of the adults in his state. Science serves the public, education serves the public. Allow young people the time in school to learn all they can, they can learn about religion in church and at home.

. (0)
Tuesday September 17, 2013, 7:23 am
Good for him! Thanks for sharing, Kit.

Winn A (179)
Tuesday September 17, 2013, 7:34 am
A shining example of what we can expect from the next generation. Wow!

Sumit jamadar (9)
Friday September 20, 2013, 9:15 pm

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Saturday September 21, 2013, 5:14 pm
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