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17-year-old kid genius built a mind-controlled prosthetic arm in his spare time

People had a wide variety of experiences during lockdown. Some created businesses, others learned a new skill and still others moved from one couch to another without spilling their plate of nachos. All worthy endeavors. Then there’s Benjamin Choi, a 17-year-old high school junior who decided to build a prosthetic arm that could be controlled by brain waves. Choi started the extensive project in 2020 at the age of 15 using his sister's 3D printer. The idea for the prosthetic arm came from a feature on "60 Minutes" about a mind-controlled prosthetic arm, but for the arm to work it required surgery to implant sensors on the motor cortex of the user's brain.

Choi told Smithsonian Magazine, “I was really, really amazed at the time because this technology was so impressive. But I was also alarmed that they require this really risky open brain surgery. And they're so inaccessible, costing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”


The teen’s goal was to make the robotic limb affordable, making it more accessible. He also wanted to eliminate the need for a surgery that involves digging around in someone’s brain to get the prosthesis to work. Using his sister’s 3D printer for his first prototype was time consuming and required tedious work to connect the pieces as the printer could only print pieces 4.7 inches long. It took Choi 30 hours just to print the parts of the arm before using rubber bands and bolts to put it together. The prosthetic worked using head gestures and brain wave data.

Amazingly, the prosthetic arm wasn't Choi's first go at coding. He has been participating in robotics competitions since he was in elementary school, requiring him to not only build robots, but code them so they would move the way he wanted. He’s gone to the VEX Robotics World Championships several times and in 9th grade he taught himself computer programming languages C++ and Python by watching videos on Stack Overflow.

For now, the arm is mounted on a stand. Over the past two years, Choi has been working to perfect the arm before adding a socket, which he says will require a recipient to be custom fitted. The arm is currently on its 75th iteration. Choi is still able to maintain the affordability of the prosthetic, with manufacturing costs of around $300. Presently, a basic body-powered upper body prosthesis will run you around $7,000.

Choi works with volunteers to collect data and improve the functionality of the AI arm. The high schooler still has a way to go before the arm is complete and ready to be put on the market but that hasn’t stopped him from being recognized. He has won awards in the Microsoft Imagine Cup, the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair and the National At-Home STEM Competition. He is also a recipient of a manufacturing grant from polySpectra Inc., awarded in 2020 to help with the production of the arm. polySpectra produces durable 3D material.

Choi plans to attend college to study engineering and wants to continue working on his prosthetic arm, eventually bringing it to clinical trials. If he pulls this off, it could be life changing for the 2 million people in the United States that live with the loss of a limb.

10/10. The Mayyas dance.

We can almost always expect to see amazing acts and rare skills on “America’s Got Talent.” But sometimes, we get even more than that.

The Mayyas, a Lebanese women’s dance troupe whose name means “proud walk of a lioness,” delivered a performance so mesmerizing that judge Simon Cowell called it the “best dance act” the show has ever seen, winning them an almost instant golden buzzer.

Perhaps this victory comes as no surprise, considering that the Mayyas had previously won “Arab’s Got Talent” in 2019 and competed on “Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions.” But truly, it’s what motivates them to take to the stage that’s remarkable.

“Lebanon is a very beautiful country, but we live a daily struggle," one of the dancers said to the judges just moments before their audition. Another explained, “being a dancer as a female Arab is not fully supported yet.”

Nadim Cherfan, the team’s choreographer, added that “Lebanon is not considered a place where you can build a career out of dancing, so it’s really hard, and harder for women.”

Still, Cherfan shared that it was a previous “AGT” star who inspired the Mayyas to defy the odds and audition anyway. Nightbirde, a breakout singer who also earned a golden buzzer before tragically passing away in February 2021 due to cancer, had told the audience, “You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” The dance team took the advice to heart.

For the Mayyas, coming onto the “AGT” stage became more than an audition opportunity. Getting emotional, one of the dancers declared that it was “our only chance to prove to the world what Arab women can do, the art we can create, the fights we fight.”

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Joy

5 easy ways to practice self care

Because taking care of yourself should never feel like a chore

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life we forget the important things: like taking care of ourselves. While binge watching your favorite show and ordering take out can be just the treat-yourself-thing you need, your body might not always feel the same. So we’re bringing you 5 easy ways to practice self-care that both you and your body will thank us for.

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via Pexels

Three people engaged in conversation at a party.

There are some people who live under the illusion that everything they say is deeply interesting and have no problem wasting your time by rambling on and on without a sign of stopping. They’re the relative, neighbor or co-worker who can’t take a hint that the conversation is over.

Of all these people, the co-worker who can’t stop talking may be the most challenging because you see them every day in a professional setting that requires politeness.

There are many reasons that some people talk excessively. Therapist F. Diane Barth writes in Psychology Today that some people talk excessively because they don’t have the ability to process complex auditory signals, so they ramble on without recognizing the subtle cues others are sending.

It may also be a case of someone who thinks they’re the most interesting person in the conversation.

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