The 3D printing industry is full of brilliant people who have used their minds to change the world in some pretty spectacular ways. But, even among all of them, there aren’t many out there like Easton LaChappelle. At the tender age of 14 he used legos, fishing wire, and scavenged electronic parts to create a working robotic hand.
He even created an interface that allowed him to control the device with his mind. But it wasn’t until he met a 7-year-old girl with an $80,000 prosthetic arm, that she’d eventually outgrow, that Easton knew what he wanted to do with his robotic creation.
It doesn’t take a genius to believe that $80,000 is an absurd price for a prosthetic arm, even one with mechanical components. LaChappelle decided that he would turn the arm that he created into an affordable prosthetic option. It wasn’t long before the self-taught robotics expert found his arm shaking hands with President Obama and telling his TED Talk audience about the need to encourage learning outside of traditional school environments. He even managed to get a job with NASA, working on an interface that would allow a robot in space to be controlled from within a spacecraft or even down on Earth.
LaChappelle, who has just turned 19, has since founded Unlimited Tomorrow to take what he learned from his arm and create an exoskeleton to help immobile people walk again. He’s also recently announced that he will be releasing all of the schematics and software for his robotic arm to the open source community to refine, customize, and share with the world. Not every 19 year old is willing to turn down the millions of dollars that he could have earned by selling his technology. … (read more)