Your average 14-year-old boy isn’t playing with Legos. Then again, your average 14-year-old boy isn’t propelled by the need to create a robotic hand that he can control with his mind. Five years ago, Easton LaChappelle used Legos, fishing wire and electric tubing to build his first robotic hand. Back then, his bedroom also functioned as his lab. Today, the 19-year old is on a mission: To create affordable prosthetic limbs.
What set LaChappelle on this journey? It was a chance meeting with a 7-year-old girl at the 2011 Colorado state science fair, where he won a third-place prize for his robotic hand. The little girl was using a prosthetic limb. “[It had] one motion — open, close — and one sensor, and just this alone was $80,000,” LaChapelle told Uproxx’s “Luminaries.” Shocked that a prosthetic limb could cost so much, LaChappelle set his mind on inventing a prosthetic that cost less than $1,000.
A prosthetic limb typically costs about $60,000, according to The Blaze. Compare that to the $350 it costs to produce LaChappelle’s prototype using 3-D printing. He announced at CES 2015 that the design will be made available for free online.
Two years ago, he started Unlimited Tomorrow, a company whose mission is ‘to keep the user first and to give extreme technology at an affordable price.” Self-taught in robotics, LaChappelle’s star is on the rise. President Obama shook hands with one of his robotic arms, and LaChappelle has done a TedX Talk about changing the future of prosthetic limbs. The 19-year-old has also worked with NASA on its Robonauts team, according to Fast Company.
“No one person can change the world," says LaChappelle in a video on his GoFundMe page, where he’s trying to raise $10,000 to support his work. "It takes multiple people, so if I can develop technology in a way so other people can take what I've done and grow from it and do something more with it, someone could take that and keep impacting someone else's life and eventually try and rule out a lot of the bad in the world by giving back to our own kind."
Top screenshot courtesy of Uproxx’s “Luminaries.”