Engineering Hope and Empowering Children

When a group of engineering students at the University of Central Florida (UCF) learned that families struggled to find affordable quality prosthetics for their children, they sprang into action. Their goal was to create low-cost bionic arms that could be personalized for each child using modern design tools and 3D printing technology. In only eight weeks, the students produced their first bionic arm and gave it to a six-year-old boy in need.

The project generated such a tremendous positive community response that the students soon launched Limbitless Solutions, a not-for-profit dedicated to providing affordable and customizable bionic limbs for children. Since its founding in 2014, Limbitless Solutions has expanded to include dozens of UCF students from multiple disciplines, including engineering, computer science, psychology, marketing, and design, all working successfully together. Adobe Creative Cloud apps are among their most important tools they utilize to develop the prosthetics.

“I never imagined that my work could have such a strong positive impact on other people’s lives, especially as an undergraduate,” says Mrudula Peddinti, a current UCF student majoring in Emerging Media Graphic Design and Digital Media Web Design. “Working at Limbitless has allowed me to branch out artistically, increasing my self-confidence as a designer. I have also improved communication skills to better work as a part of a diverse team.”

The process typically starts with an artist or graphic designer creating concept art in Adobe Photoshop CC or Illustrator CC that captures a child’s unique personality. Designs have ranged from floral bouquets to Iron Man. After engineers design a 3D housing for the bionic limb, the design is applied before 3D printing it. Artists and engineers then build and paint the limb to bring it to life.

The engineering students at UCF who spearheaded Limbitless use Creative Cloud apps to hone their problem solving skills and create new solutions where traditional thinking previously failed. Creative problem solving—the process of redefining problems and opportunities, coming up with new, innovative responses and solutions, and then taking action—is a key soft skill that employers are looking for.

The School of Visual Art & Design is now helping Limbitless Solutions expand into training and care tools as well. Using Adobe Creative Cloud apps, a design team develops simple games that use an electromyography (EMG) controller to sense muscle movements and translate them into movements on a computer screen. Playing the games helps children learn how to use their new bionic arms. The Limbitless Training Games series won the Best Serious Game Innovation award in 2016 at the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge.

Using Adobe XD CC, Limbitless Solutions is even working on designs for a new interactive app that will provide an accessible method for children to learn how to use, maintain, and work with the new arm every day. Real-time mock-ups are particularly helpful in allowing both design and engineering teams to collaborate on the app and test interactions.

“As the Limbitless arms grow more complex, we’re using Adobe XD CC to design a mobile learning app that includes an interactive manual and arm-training games,” says Peter Smith, Assistant Professor of Game Design at UCF. “Adobe XD gives our design and engineering teams everything they need to work together seamlessly—they can design the app screens, turn them into prototypes, test the interactions in real time, and quickly iterate and refine before publishing across platforms.”

Zachary Pamboukas, a nine-year-old boy who has worked with Limbitless says, “Since I came over to Limbitless and got my bionic arm, things that used to be hard for me to do have gotten easier. I can ride my bike without my back hurting, I can pick up smaller things, and I can carry more stuff when I am helping around the house too! People also stopped asking me what happened to my arm because they now want to ask me how my new arm works.”

Zachary’s father Niko Pamboukas adds, “Limbitless Solutions isn’t just a company, it’s a group of extremely smart and caring individuals who bring you into this larger family. We have made connections with many of the other Limitless families where we celebrate each other’s accomplishments and ask for help since there’s a direct understanding of what our child is experiencing. We never knew what to expect when we first reached out. Now, it’s hard to imagine life without Limbitless Solutions.”

There are still thousands of children across the United States waiting to receive the life-changing benefits of Limbitless bionic limbs. Limbitless is rising to meet that challenge with plans to deliver 5,000 custom limbs by 2020. By combining design and technology, Limbitless Solutions is building a connection between children and their prosthetics, improving not only their mobility, but their confidence.

“Limbitless is dedicated to providing high quality bionics at an affordable cost,” says Albert Manero, President of Limbitless Solutions. “By pushing the limits of art and engineering and using software like Adobe Creative Cloud, we’re creating a brighter future for children in need.”

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