Heroes

The best new prosthetic for children isn't made from newfangled metals. It's made out of Legos.

A scientist at a Swedish university has developed a prototype for kids to build their own prosthetic limbs and fight disability stigmas at the same time — using Legos.

The best new prosthetic for children isn't made from newfangled metals. It's made out of Legos.

Dario is an 8-year old boy living in Colombia.

GIF from Umeå Institute of Design.


He really really really likes robots.


GIF from Umeå Institute of Design.

He has a congenital malformation in his right forearm, which requires him to wear a prosthetic.

GIF from Umeå Institute of Design.

There are many kids like Dario in Colombia, which inspired industrial designer Carlos Torres to build a new prosthetic just for them.

Having himself been raised in war-torn Colombia, Torres witnessed firsthand how an armed conflict can destroy civilian lives. While Dario was born with his condition, there are hundreds of other children in Colombia who are permanently injured by land mines and other collateral damage from the war each year.

“The needs of a disabled child are many of course," Torres observed in his thesis statement at Sweden's Umeå Institute of Design. “The physiological needs of replacing a lost part of their body is one of the priorities, but taking a look at this phenomena through the eyes of the armed conflict shows that the psychosocial needs are a big part of a person in disability."


GIF from Umeå Institute of Design.

Torres' new prototype allows kids to hack, create, and customize their own prosthetic limbs ... with Legos.

Torres is hardly the first person to implement the educational value of Legos in a practical application, but his method is certainly unique. With support from Lego and CIREC, a Colombian nonprofit that supports people with disabilities and victims of armed conflict, he developed a Lego-integrated prototype called the IKO prosthetic system (which, as Carlos explained via email, "is the way that little kids say Me in the Netherlands").

Visible disabilities can have a serious impact on kids' socialization and self-esteem — and, by extension, their overall psychological development. But like any good engineer, Torres did his due diligence and organized a series of controlled experiments to observe Dario's socialization and self-esteem in relation to his friends and family while using the IKO prototype to build Lego attachments on his arm.


GIF from Umeå Institute of Design.

The IKO prosthetic also encourages confidence and creativity while fighting back against disability stigmas.

In both situations, Dario's improved confidence was readily apparent. He was warm, welcoming, and collaborative, and he easily transitioned into a leadership role, as if having the Lego set attached to his body gave him a feeling of ownership and pride. There were still some difficulties, of course, but at no point did he seem frustrated or ready to give up. In fact, his school friend Santiago, after previously expressing pity for Dario's condition, began to envy his friend's new toy: “I want one of those. I think his new arm is cool!"


GIF from Umeå Institute of Design.

(Admittedly, Santiago may not have grasped the full complexity of the situation. But it's still a nice thought.)

This is just one piece of a larger project that looks into the developmental psychology of children who were born with a missing limb or have since lost one.

It's difficult for children with disabilities to develop alongside their peers when they have to compensate for anxiety and a feeling of otherness. While the IKO prototype is currently designed only for upper limb disabilities, it still goes a long way toward restoring not only the practical functionality of a missing or malformed limb, but also a child's confidence, by encouraging their educational development through creative exploration.

Frankly, what kid wouldn't want a cybernetic Lego arm attachment?


GIF from "The Lego Movie."

In his preliminary interviews, 8-year-old Dario makes it clear that he does not like superheroes. Yes, he loves adventure stories, but he prefers machinery, robots, and spaceships to chiseled men with superhuman abilities. In this way, Dario is a lot like Emmet from "The Lego Movie," in his quest to become "The Special." It doesn't matter that the prophecy of "The Special" isn't true — all Emmet needs to become a hero is for someone to show him that he can be one.

For Dario, his favorite stories allow him to see a reflection of himself and the actualization of his own potential. The IKO prosthetic system is just another way to help him and other kids like him get there.


GIF from "The Lego Movie."

Watch the full video from Carlos Arturo Torres' prototype project below:

Photo courtesy of Capital One
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Growing up in Virginia, Dominique Meeks Gombe idolized her family physician — a young Black woman who inspired Meeks Gombe to pursue her passion for chemistry.

While Meeks Gombe began her career working in an environmental chemistry lab, after observing multiple inefficient processes in and around the lab, she took the initiative to teach herself to code in order to automate and streamline those issues.

That sparked her love for coding and imminent career shift. Now a software engineer at Capital One, Meeks Gombe wants to be a similar role model to her childhood mentor and encourage girls to pursue any career they desire.

"I'm so passionate about technology because that's where the world is going," Meeks Gombe said. "All of today's problems will be solved using technology. So it's very important for me, as a Black woman, to be at the proverbial table with my unique perspective."

Since 2019, she and her fellow Capital One associates have partnered with the Capital One Coders program and Girls For A Change to teach coding fundamentals to middle school girls.

The nonprofit's mission is aimed at empowering Black girls in Central Virginia. The organization focuses on designing, leading, funding and implementing social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods.

Girls For a Change is one of many local nonprofits that receive support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, which strives to close gaps in equity while helping people gain better access to economic and social opportunities. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


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