Limbitless Solutions, the University of Central Florida student group that creates 3-D printed bionic arms for children and donates them to families at no cost, today became more closely affiliated with the university.

The UCF Board of Trustees voted unanimously to make Limbitless Solutions the university’s newest direct support organization, meaning it will be a nonprofit entity formally affiliated with the university. Although Limbitless has used UCF lab space and worked closely with some faculty members, the group previously has operated as an independent nonprofit group.

“Limbitless Solutions exemplifies the impact we want our students to have – use their intellectual curiosity and the knowledge they gain here to innovate solutions to the world’s greatest challenges,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Dale Whittaker. “This talented group of thinkers and makers isn’t just helping children by giving them arms. They’re also inspiring them to dream big. That’s part of our DNA at UCF.”

Limbitless Solutions founder Albert Manero said the more formal affiliation will help his group maximize its impact by leveraging the size and excellence of the university to enhance access to disability technology and continuously improve STEM education.

“The Board of Trustees’ vote shows UCF’s commitment to giving students a tangible way to use innovation to help children who need it most,” Manero said. “It also shows UCF’s commitment to be on the forefront of assistive technology.”

UCF recently launched a prosthetic interface cluster that aims to bring together experts from across campus to focus on developing intelligent prosthetics that enhance human capabilities. The cluster will use biomechanics and biomaterials, cellular and tissue engineering, bio-nano-technology, control systems, human-computer interaction controls to develop the next generation of smart prosthetics.

“We are eager to add our experience to the cluster, working with internal and industry partners to enhance designs and continue to change lives,” Manero said. “Our team is committed to improving access to disability technology infused with creativity.”

Manero founded the nonprofit in 2014 after he and a few of his friends spent eight weeks creating a 3-D printed bionic arm for then-six-year-old Alex Pring of Groveland. Since then, the group of students has grown to more than 100.

Working as a team, members design and deliver the bionic arms during their free time, often juggling school work, jobs, internships and family. They have delivered themed bionic arms to 20 children around the world, including four in Florida. Robert Downey Jr., the actor who portrays Iron Man, helped the team deliver an upgraded Iron Man-themed bionic arm to Pring in 2015, which caught international attention, including a video with more than 50 million views on social media, a story on CNN International and even getting a mention on the Tonight Show. The ABC and NBC evening news shows also have featured the team’s efforts.

Manero, who will earn his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering on Saturday, Dec. 17, will become the DSO’s president. A board, which includes members of the community, will oversee operations.

Other student members of Limbitless are also graduating this semester and are excited for their next career steps. Many have pledged to help continue supporting the organization’s work. Each semester Limbitless picks up dozens of new members, from engineering to fine arts.

“We are dedicated to building a generation of innovators who use their skills and passion to improve the world around them,” Manero said.