I remember when the whole Ironman prosthetic arm thing happened my hackerspace was buzzing with “wouldn’t it be cool if” ideas. Much of that had to do with colors, lasers and other custom features. However, none of us were thinking Legos, but we should have been, right? It’s the obvious creative choice for a kid. Well, it turns out a few years ago someone was already making a Lego arm, but now there is this hybrid I spotted on Gizmodo. It’s called IKO and was created by Carlos Arturo Torres Tovar at the University of Sweden back in 2014 in conjunction with Lego Future Lab, and it continues to win awards. Carlos was struck by the psychological and social aspects of special needs children, so he was less concerned with having the perfect practical arm, but more interested in seeing what he could do for a child’s self esteem and imagination.
What if kids could make their own prosthetics and have fun at the same time? Learning. Creating. Being kids.
The system’s cylinder style base allows for a 360 building experience, which really gets kid excited. Carlos tested various Lego kits including a space theme and bulldozer theme and kids went crazy. The best part is that other children see the arm as something fun, not scary like traditional prosthetics. In fact, it encourages children to work together with their ideas. Check out the thesis book to learn more details about the project, and also see how things evolved in this video.
It looks like Carlos is now interning at IDEO, which is no surprise given his talents. What’s not clear is what has happened to his IKO arm. I’m hoping Lego is seriously considering it for their product line. There’s something that just makes sense about introducing kids to robotics and simultaneously helping them with needed solutions. Of course if you have kids of your own and you are interested in getting them started with robotics, you should check out Sparki. This is not going to lead to a prosthetic arm, but it will help make a connection with how moving things and sensors work. It’s a great first robotics kit because it is plug and play out of the box by using it’s remote. Later, you can start playing with some Arduino code, and there are some sample programs included to get you started. Notice that I’ve said this is for your kids, but feel free to borrow it; it’s got great upgrade capability for the experienced bot lover. Did I mention it’s super cute?
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