These kids are using technology to turn their prosthetics into a superhero's dream.

If you could give yourself a superpower or a superhero-style gadget, what would it be?

I always say I'd want to be a shapeshifter or have a car that could shape-shift à la the Batmobile because I like pretending to be other things.

It's a fun question to ask friends because it gets everyone to think outside the box and have a good time being creative.


Now consider this: What if you could take those ideas and actually make them functional? (Who else's inner comic nerd just perked up?)

That's the idea behind Superhero Boost — a weeklong workshop where disabled kids get to create their own superpowers in the form of wearable devices.

One kid's light-up prosthetic. All photos by Autodesk/Blue Bergen, except where noted, used with permission.

The workshop was launched in 2014 by Kate Ganim and has since turned into an intensive series of workshops that help kids harness their inner designer and/or engineer.

"We aim to create a space for kids to celebrate the bodies that they're in and to re-think their disability as a super-ability," writes Ganim in an email.

However, she stresses that it's not about trying to "fix" these kids. Many of them were born without a limb or part of a limb; because those were never there in the first place, the kids don't feel like they're missing anything. Instead, it's about helping them create something cool and unique that they're proud to show off.

"Why does it have to be a hand, when it could be literally anything and it could do things that a natural hand isn't able to do?" asks Ganim.

What's more, the kids get to make their body modification using state-of-the-art technology like 3D modeling, robotics, and Google artificial intelligence technology — with the help of trained experts, of course.

Since 15-year-old Sydney's a competitive BMX rider, she updated her arm prosthetic so that it lights up to intimidate competitors.

Photo courtesy of Andrea Howard.

This was her second year doing the workshop, and since she's now quite proficient in 3D printing, she was asked to be a mentor as well as an inventor during the June Superhero Boost workshop in San Francisco.

"The thing that I like as a parent is that they want kids to think on their own and be themselves," says Audrey, Sydney's mom.

Sydney's currently ranked seventh in her state in her age group for BMX, and her handle bar was custom made to support her prosthetic, so she wanted to make it stand out in a major way. When she learned Google engineers were going to be at the workshop teaching kids how to incorporate AI, she knew that had to be part of her design.

Thanks to help from Google engineers and staff from both Superhero Boost and Autodesk, the company that held the workshop and offered up their plethora of tech tools, she got her modification to work by the end of the week.

"The [engineers] are like little kids," remarks Sydney. "It's quite fun. They get so excited."

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Kenzie created something entirely different — a robotic arm sleeve with a glowing gem that even Iron Man would envy.

Kenzie actually came up with the idea at a one-day workshop she did with Superhero Boost in Boston, near her hometown, but she really got to flesh it out during the most recent weeklong workshop in San Francisco.

While in the end, it wasn't totally what she'd envisioned, it still looked pretty darn cool.

"I was like, 'It's going to have to shoot something or do something,'" says Kenzie. "It ended up just lighting up. It did a thing — not a fantastic thing — but it did something."

She devised the whole modification on the computer in something called Tinkercad, a computer-aided design (CAD) program that allows you to 3D print your creations. Kenzie had to do some futzing with the voice control aspect of the project, which initially failed to function correctly, but eventually she and her engineer helper figured it out.

This experience is about much more than making awesome gadgets, though: It's also helping these kids see that they really can do anything they set their minds to with technology at their disposal.

Kenzie and Sydney working at the Superhero Boost workshop.

For example, Kenzie was blown away by a wheelchair booster that her friend Anaiss made — it literally lifts her wheelchair higher, which is not only super cool, but also legitimately useful.

These kids are also taking skills with them that will likely be instrumental in whatever career they end up choosing.

Kenzie, for one, is looking to go into toy design, and thanks to the workshop, she's already connecting the dots to that dream. "One lady at the end was talking about how she's going to be working on this augmented reality project, and that she wanted to work with me on that," she says.

What's more, everyone who participated gets to keep working with a professional designer on their prototypes to make them as cool as they can be.

But while all these tools are great, the real superpowers come from the kids themselves.

The kids from the most recent Superhero Boost workshop.

"By nature, these kids are incredibly creative and determined," writes Gamin. "They're having to adapt every day to an environment that was not designed for them, and it's on them to figure out how to adapt."

However, since the most formidable beings are the most adaptable, there's no doubt these kids are going to be unstoppable.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less
via The BC Cancer Foundation

Testicular cancer typically affects men between the ages of 16 and 44 and is the most common solid tumor to occur in men of this age group. These tumors grow rapidly and can double in size in just 10 to 30 days.

The disease is potentially fatal if not discovered early and accounts for about 11%-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15-35. An estimated 9,60 people were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020, resulting in around 440 deaths.

So it's incredibly important for people with testicles to check themselves regularly.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.