I met nine-year-old Aidan Robinson at a summer camp he attended called Superhero Cyborgs. This camp, run by KIDmob, is a place where kids with a variety of limb differences design their own prosthetic and orthotic devices. Each kid's design was impressive, but Aidan's playful ideas really resonated with me. To me, Aidan's ideas were a model for how prosthetic devices could and should be more appropriate, useful, and fun than those typically used for both children and adults.The typical prosthetic arm has a robotic hand or a hook that does not adapt well to a variety uses.
Aidan was born without a left arm below the elbow and has had many different types of prosthetics, all leaving him feeling almost better off without them. Despite these hurdles, and like the resilient and creative kid he is, Aidan adapted extremely well to life with a limb difference and is more active than most kids his age. Because the prosthetic is a part of him, we both felt that he needed a device that accurately reflected his personality and interests.
Aidan and his mom had two main goals for his new device. Aidan wanted access to multiple task specific attachments on one device, like a swiss army knife. Aidan had specific-enough interests to know exactly the tools he wanted on his arm, mostly consisting of things that helped him play favorite games or do everyday tasks. Aidan's mom, Jill, wanted something that would grow with him. Prosthetics are often expensive and custom fit. To be worth the cost, Aidan had to get long-term use and be more satisfied with the device overall.
I took the ideas Aidan and his mom came up with, and together we designed the following prosthetic device.
The Superhero Cyborgs workshop was structured so that Aidan could work like a real designer, allowing him to be a creative Superhero and realize some of his ideas. He started off with some brainstorming sketches and moved on to do some really great prototyping work to test out some of his ideas. Aidan's sketch shows he has some really big ideas for a super adaptive, multifaceted device. But to get started, he kept it simple but cool and made himself a yellow LEGO character hand and a custom molded socket.