Helping Hands: Technion “Tikun Olam”

3D printed robotic prosthetic hands for children

Helping Hands: Technion “Tikun Olam”

Unknown to many but very much appreciated by the children whose lives they change, students from a number of faculties volunteer to develop and produce 3D printed mechanical and robotic prosthetic hands for children.

A very extraordinary project in Prof. Alon Wolf’s Biorobotics and Biomechanics lab(BRML) is “tikun olam” (repairing the world) in action. Together with Haifa3D, a non-profit organization, students from the faculties of Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science work in the BRML on a very unique project. Together they, design, produce and distribute free prosthetic hands to children.

Functional prosthetic hands are not provided for free to anyone in Israel nor in many places around the world. These prosthetic hands can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For a child who is growing constantly, it is impractical to even buy one. Technion students are introduced to these children by Haifa3D, a local nonprofit organization run by volunteers (some are students themselves). The students have perfected a method to make the mechanical and robotic hands inexpensively on a 3D printer. The children are able to choose their own colors and logos for the hands and that makes a big difference to them. Children who were shy and ashamed before become proud of their new hands. From not being able to catch a ball and do other simple tasks their lives are greatly improved.

Israeli children are not the only recipients of Technion 3D prosthetic hands, the hands have been given to children in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria and other countries worldwide. The mechanical engineering students tutored a group from the West Bank to make the hands on a special visit to the lab. The designs are provided to the world through the global organization e-Nable, a community that creates and shares open source designs for assistive devices, and they are also shared on the BRML webpage.

Prof. Alon Wolf, The head of BRML and Technion Vice President for External Relations and Resource Development explains, “This is one of those outreach activities that has a large impact on society and educates our students to become leaders, not just technological or entrepreneurial leaders but leaders in impact; the impact they bring to society with the knowledge they acquire at the Technion during their studies. This is the beauty and strength of the Technion.”

Prof. Alon Wolf