BY: DANIEL KORN
Need a hand? 19-year-old Easton LaChapelle has a mechanical one for you that is more advanced than standard limited-motion prosthetics. Oh, and its 3D printing schematics are available for free, courtesy of his accessible technology start-up Unlimited Tomorrow.
LaChappelle is something of a boy wonder, and built his first robotic arm prototype at the age of 14, after meeting a girl with a simple prosthetic arm that, she explained, cost $80,000 and would need to be replaced once she outgrew it. His prototype was made out of Lego blocks, remote-controlled air plane motors, fishing line, electrical tubing, and was controlled with a wireless glove that allowed the user to move every finger individually. The current version is controlled mentally with an EEG headband and costs less than 500 dollars. It also means that the arm can be controlled externally, without the dangerous, invasive neuron implant surgery required of traditional prosthetics. Perhaps even more amazing is that LaChappelle is completely self-taught, educating himself in robotics through a combination of practical trial-and-error and websites like SparkFun and Instructables. He has presented the arm to Barack Obama, and recently worked at NASA, assisting with their Robonaut project.
Easton LaChappelle shows his prosthetic arm to President Barack Obama at the 3rd annual White House Science Fair.
LaChappelle just finished a GoFundMe campaign, where he raised over $10,000 USD to help expand Unlimited Tomorrow with more 3D printers, testing equipment and employees. The company is currently working on a new version of the arm for consumer use, as well as “an exoskeleton to help paraplegics walk again.”
It bears repeating that LaChapelle is only 19 years old.