Stephanie Valderrama, creative director for UCF based Limbitless Solutions, is visiting the White House today as part of the White House Design For All Showcase.
The event, including a fashion show to celebrate inclusive design, assistive technology and prosthetics, is designed to highlight the ways that assistive technology breaks down barriers, reduces stigma and improves the quality of life for Americans with disabilities.
Limbitless has been breaking down barriers and providing opportunities for children with innovative technology for the past two years. The organization began as a group of students pulling together to build a personalized 3-D printed bionic arm for a Central Florida boy. They gave then 6-year-old Alex Pring the arm at no cost and decided they wanted to do more. Two years later, the team has helped 20 families in the United States and internationally. Actor Robert Downey Jr., also known as Iron Man, took notice and helped deliver one Iron Man-themed arm to a fan and released a Facebook video about the experience that went viral.
The team designs the bionic arms and creates sleeves based on the interests of the children. Among the most popular themes: Star Wars, Transformers, sharks, dolphins and flowers. The arms are designed to help the children express themselves.
“I am honored to represent Limbitless Solutions at the White House event with other social innovators who are shifting the conversation from disability to design,” Valderrama said during the event.
Other examples of innovative technology shared at the event: accessible blue jeans that can be worn by people who have lower-extremity issues, robotic arms, and a new treatment called Unique Align, which combines 3-D printed scoliosis braces with imbedded wearable technology, among many others.
The invitation to the White House event came at an important time for Limbitless. The students turned the group of volunteers into a nonprofit organization and are looking to amplify its reach and harness support from the community to continue its work.
“There is so much need,” said Albert Manero, founder of the group and a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering. “We get emails every day from families looking for help. We believe that no child should be limited because they can’t afford an arm. That’s where our name came from.”
U.S. Chief Data Scientist D.J. Patil kicked off the event with opening remarks. A panel discussion featuring Pradeep Sharma of the Rhode Island Institute of Design, Matthew Walzer and Tobie Hatfield of Nike FLYEASE, designer Kathy Woods, and actress Kerry Bishé followed. Valderrama was also able to speak to a cross section of people from the public and private worlds who are creating innovative assistive technology.
Valderrama, who expects to graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in art – emerging media track, with a graphic design specialization, was thrilled to get a chance to spread the word about Limbitless Solutions and show the features of one of the team’s arms with fellow guests.
“Changing lives is what matters,” she said. “It’s why I joined Limbitless.”