A team of University of Central Florida engineering students who made an inexpensive 3-D arm for a 6-year-old boy this summer is being honored today at the STEAM Gala, a black-tie event sponsored by some of the biggest companies in the nation.
The gala is the kickoff of STEAM Week, a series of entertaining and engaging activities geared toward showing the public the power of science, engineering, technology and art to change the lives of everyday people. During the week guests can experience the STEAM Carnival in more than 90,000 square feet at a venue called Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles. The activities include life-size custom-built games, areas to build robots, a wearable-electronics fashion show, and hands-on workshops focused on science, technology, engineering, art and math.
Two Bit Circus, an engineering entertainment company, created STEAM Week with IBM as its title sponsor. Others like the founder of Atari and VIPs from DirectTV, Intel, General Electric and several other companies are also sponsoring the event to drive home the point that innovation and creativity go hand-in-hand and have the power to change the world.
STEAM Gala representatives scoured the nation to find the best examples of how a little innovation, technical expertise and determination can make a difference.
The UCF students, who call themselves Limbitless, garnered national attention in July when they presented Groveland first-grader Alex Pring with his arm. It was made with a 3-D printer and off-the-shelf servos and batteries that are activated by the electromyography muscle energy on Alex’s bicep. In eight weeks they were able to design and produce the arm, which allowed Alex for the first time to give his mother a real hug with both arms.
“We are recognizing Limbitless with the STEAM Innovation Award because we think their spirit of refusing to accept that artificial limbs have to be expensive or limited to those who can afford them is demonstrative of how we can, together, create a better world,” said Jennifer Jordan, a spokeswoman for the STEAM Carnival. “They jumped in, found an inexpensive solution through wit, experimentation and technical know-how, and changed the lives of a boy and his family as a result.”
And they are doing much more. The team posted all the blueprints for their design online so anyone can download them for free. Members are also working with e-Nable, an international group of volunteers who are pioneering new 3-D-printed hands and arms to help people around the world. This month some UCF team members also met and began the design process for their first international recipient, a 5-year-old from Brazil.
Albert Manero, the team’s leader and an engineering doctoral student, said the group was honored and thrilled to see so many companies trying to deliver the message that partnership is key to making big dreams happen. It is the only reason Limbitless was a success, Manero said.
“I want to thank my team for their amazing effort to make this dream come to life,” he said. “This project could not be done without such a diverse and talented team. We are truly blessed by the skill and expertise of each team member. Here we have bridged engineers and computer scientists with artists, photographers and a fashion designer. This is truly a STEAM team, and we are just getting started.”
Eight team members flew to Los Angeles to receive the award.