Project Daniel: Not Impossible’s 3D Printing Arms for Children of War-Torn Sudan

project-daniel-0614-mdnFor Popular Mechanics, Erik Schechter writes: This week the folks at Not Impossible won a Cannes Lions award for their recent work on 3D-printed prosthetic arms for children of war-torn Sudan. The cheap but sturdy plastic hands developed as part of Project Daniel have a spring-loaded wrist joint and allow for a basic range of movement, and, if one breaks, a new one can be printed in hours. We caught up with Elliot Kotek, content chief and co-founder of Not Impossible, to hear about the project.

What was the genesis of Project Daniel?

In July 2013 Mick [Ebeling, Not Impossible founder] was at a dinner with Matt Keller, one of the guys who runs XPRIZE—the initiative of Peter DiamandisElon Musk, and others that offers $15 million in prizes for solving big-issue problems, kind of like a Nobel Prize on steroids. And Matt suggested that Mick read this article inTime.The article was about this doctor, Tom Catena, at the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains [in Sudan]. He was the sole doctor operating in a region with about a million people. The story also mentioned this kid, Daniel Omar, who, at the age of 14, lost both his arms to a barrel bomb dropped from a government plane. Dr. Catena performed the [double] amputation on Daniel.

In the article Daniel said, “If I could have died that day, I would have.” Because now, at the age of 16, he considered himself a burden to his family. This had an impact on Mick, who has three boys who are 10, 8, and 4. And I’ve got one little guy.

So how did you get started?

On our content site, where we highlight innovation for humanity stories, we had run this story about Richard van As, this guy in South Africa who invented a Robohand. Well, we thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could get one of these hands to Daniel? We didn’t know what Daniel’s actual condition was at the time, but we reached out to Tom and started having Skype calls.We then called 3D-printer manufacturers, experts in prosthetics, potential sponsors for the journey to Sudan, and people who knew the local landscape. Finally, we brought a bunch of makers to Mick’s house in Venice Beach, California, to start working on the project. Basically, people were just sleeping everywhere and anywhere. Thankfully, it doesn’t rain too much in California.

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