Kid Designs His Own Prosthetic Arm At A Summer Camp

Prosthetic arm made at summer camp

Ever heard of the summer camp called Superhero Cyborgs? It’s where [Coby Unger] met nine-year-old [Aidan Robinson] and helped him design his very own custom prosthetic arm.

The camp is put on by KIDmob for kids who have various limb disabilities, and helps give them the tools and guidance to be able to make their very own prosthetics. Some of the designs the children come up with are cool, useful, pretty and sometimes not overly functional — but [Aidan’s] designs really intrigued [Coby] who is a designer and part of the staff at Pier 9, a world-class fabrication facility (and makerspace) run by Autodesk.

There’s a lot of problems with prosthetics for children. They’re very expensive, kids don’t stay the same size, and even though they might cost a lot, they don’t necessarily work that well. [Aidan] had a few commercial options but didn’t like any of them, so much so that he preferred not wear them period. But when he attended the camp he realized he had the ability to design a prosthetic that he’d actually want to wear.

[Aidan] wanted a prosthetic that could use different attachments specific to what he wanted to do, taking inspiration from a Swiss army knife. He wanted to be able to play the Wii, assemble LEGO, eat food, and even play an instrument. His mom wanted the prosthetic to be able to “grow” with [Aidan]. A tall order? Perhaps, but [Coby] was up to the challenge.


It’s rather ingenious actually. [Coby] designed a flower shaped piece of plastic that can be 3D printed and then thermoformed in warm water to form around the end of a limb.

To tighten it, he stole a ratcheting adjustment system from an adjustable knee strap, allowing for quick installation and removal — something [Aidan] can do himself.

This way as he continues to grow, the prosthetic remains adjustable, and worst case, just needs a new part 3D printed. To allow for the attachment of various tools, [Coby] added a quick release clamping system designed to hold anything with a 1/2″ diameter shaft making it super easy for [Aidan] and his mom to make their own attachments.

3D printing is doing some great things for prosthetics. Earlier this year we saw an Iron Man themed prosthetic hand to make kids dreams come true, a cute story about someone making an artistic prosthetic for a random stranger and the introduction of E-nable, a community dedicated to DIY prosthetics — to give the world a “Helping Hand”.

[Thanks Jerome!]

18 thoughts on “Kid Designs His Own Prosthetic Arm At A Summer Camp

  1. Very neat. The availability of good quality tools is definitely brining a revival of the art of making things. Prosthetic s is on of those areas that can’t really benifit from the cost reductions of mass production, at least not directly. The ability to make them yourself at the cost of your own time instead of the time of a skilled worker is huge. Open source designs promise to reduce the cost of new and innovative designs as well.

    1. It seems to me like it’d be possible to design some sort of modular system where you buy off-the shelf joints and attaching harness and cut “bones” to length with a hack saw. Add in this kid’s printed attachment point and you’ve got something about as good as the traditional, non-powered arms, even if it wouldn’t be as light. Though it would still probably cost way more than it should, at least in the US, because of the economics of health care.

      I have this mental image of him with a utility belt of attachments, including a nerf gun.

  2. Just a heads up: the new design is still completely unrecognizable. You guys said complaints would dwindle, and you’re right, because I haven’t been back since you completely abandoned a solid decade of familiarity.

    The colors are still bad, the chunky headlines are still hard-to-read blobs, and for god’s sake, the blog goes on the frontpage.

      1. > go elsewhere

        I did. But if I didn’t come back to say I did, nobody would know, and they’d think they did good. They didn’t. They completely screwed up this site I loved. Negative feedback is a necessary part of any design process, as users of this site damn well ought to know by now.

        1. Negative feedback != constructive feedback… whining and saying what you don’t like doesn’t really help, making suggestions (and not simply, “I don’t like change, put it back, wahhhhh”) will get you much further.

          “if I didn’t come back to say I [went elsewhere], nobody would know…” they’d figure it out by the page hits and counters etc…

          Remember that old adage “you can’t please everyone”? It looks like you’re one of the vocal minority…

      1. I picked the most recent article because I couldn’t be arsed to lurch through the ugly new interface for a relevant post. I wouldn’t be surprised if the most-recent post about the surprise UI change was the original and only post about it, wherein the admins poo-poo’d all negative feedback.

        They asked what people thought, then ignored us, saying the complaints would dwindle. The complaints did dwindle – because we stopped coming here. If nobody came back to tell them, they’d never know how badly they screwed up.

  3. Is anyone thinking–“Enter the Dragon”? Interchangeable tools/adapters is an idea that has waited for this kind of modern technology to make it affordable and accessible to the masses. Cheers!

  4. Somebody give that kid a hand! Anyway the thermoformed flower “stump” attachment is really smart, it could be good for years, maybe the petals should be a little longer to allow for more growth, but this is great.

  5. Aiden, your really a smart kid that knows what he wants and I have no doubt hat you will be able to do what ever you put your mind to. Great Idea Aiden!

    COBY YOU ROCK!!!! Great job… I am over the moon right now that someone thought so much of others. You have provided opportunity for so many other children/people with the same disability and I have no doubt that you will do great things.

    May God bless both of you.

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