At least 12,000 children have been killed since the fighting began in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. More than 1.2 million children have become refugees, almost half of them under the age of five. Another three million are “internally displaced”, most of whom have not been to school for the past four years.
Then there are the children who have lost limbs in the conflict, often from barrel bombs, improvised barrel-shaped devices filled with shrapnel and explosives that the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad drops almost daily.
There is a company called ‘Limbitless Solutions’, raising money to send 75 bionic arms to Syrian children who have lost limbs. A 3-D printer enables the limbs to be built cheaply and quickly. A hand takes 4-6 weeks to make, and a bionic arm without an elbow takes 8 – 12 weeks. The technology uses electromyography, meaning that when a child flexes his bicep it triggers a signal that allows the users to open and close his hand. An arm costs just $350, and as a child grows the plastic parts can be reprinted in a larger size for just a few dollars.
Obamacare will not pay for prosthetic devices for children, which normally cost tens of thousands of dollars and need to be replaced as the child grows. Sometimes it takes a war or a chaotic situation like we see in the Middle East to become incentivized and creative to find solutions. Albert Manero, a graduate student at the University of Central Florida, and the CEO of Limbitless Solutions, says he was inspired to try to help Syrian children after learning of their plight from other organizations. And yes, he also helps children in the US too (clue – Ironman).
And here’s the rest of the story. Two years ago, a movie company challenged a robotics company in the UK to build a bionic man from existing bionic parts available from many different companies around the world. A team of engineers designed the world’s first “full bionic man,” a walking, talking robot made up of 28 mechanical body parts from 17 international manufacturers. This is not the same thing as a humanoid robot but is a bionic Frankenstein figure dubbed Frank. Total cost: one million dollars.
“The whole idea of the project was to get together all of the spare parts that already exist for the human body today,” said Bertolt Meyer, a 36-year-old social psychologist at the University of Zurich who designed the bionic man. “If you did that, what would it look like?” Well, it didn’t look like Steve Austin ($6M Man) but more like Arnold Swarzenegger (Terminator), shaped like a human or at least 70% of the bionic replacement parts of a human.
After showing off its abilities at the Comic Con in New York and the Smithsonian in Washington DC, Frank was returned to the UK to be disassembled and all parts returned to their original manufacturers. An hour video was made and you can see it on the Smithsonian Channel or web site.
Fortunately, the kids of Syria that get their bionic hands and arms will be getting updates until they are 18 years old at no cost to them or any Government entity. The Syrian Kids program was completely sponsored by a NGO (shhhh…I think it’s linked to Microsoft).