Engineering Week - Extending the Body and Mind

National Engineers Week is a time to remind everyone of the work that Engineers contribute into the research, design and development of their respective craft. Whether the focus is on Computers, Design, Electrical, Mechanical or Software Engineering, we may take for granted their work which makes an impact on our daily lives. We may overlook the simple things for Americans with Disabilities such as handrails, wheelchair ramps, prosthetics or wheelchairs, but Engineers let creativity and innovation run wild and bring life to their ideas surrounding these topics.

This past weekend BodyHackingCon occurred. The conference was dedicated to expanding the capabilities of the human body using external resources.  Showcased within the conference were creative solutions with a focus on disability, hacking, and prosthetics. One of the speaker sessions demonstrated the unique prosthetic arm worn by James Young, inspired by the Konami video game, Metal Gear Solid.  The lead character in the Metal Gear Solid game, Snake, is an amputee with a prosthetic arm.

As part of a contest, Konami was looking for a disabled gamer to build a prosthetic limb for, similar to the limb Snake had worn in the game. After reviewing thousands of candidates, Konami chose James, who lost his arm and leg after being pulled by train in London. Regardless, as a gamer, he was still able to play using one hand and his mouth to work on the controls. When James was approached by Konami about the potential for a new prosthetic limb, he worked with them to forge a design less intimidating than the one Snake donned considering his profession in pharmaceutical sales with an amazing result.
James previously wore prosthetics, but the latest inspired by Metal Gear Solid had all the bells and whistles including a sleek, futuristic design, neon lights, USB chargers, emailing capabilities and yes, even a drone and the controls to fly it. James now controls the arm from the shoulder down by tensing his shoulder muscles, even if the arm isn’t attached!
Sophie De Oliveira Barata, the Design Engineer for this amazing arm, is one of the top designers in the field, developing prosthetics for paralympians, actors, and disabled models with realistic attributes. In this case, considering she was building the arm for James, she ensured that his personality was reflected into the design.  Read more about the phantom limb projects at

Not everyone has a high tech arm like James, but can have a very sleek and customized solution leveraging 3D printing. Earlier this year, as an open source project, 3D Systems showcased their K-1 assistive device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 3D Systems along with e-NABLE  produced prosthetic hands in a live demonstration for the audience and later donated to individuals who needed them. In a separate booth at the CES show, ROBO 3D demonstrated their 3D printing technology  and 3D Prosthetic Print Kits to create 3-D printed prosthetic lands and arms.  Through the use of a home 3D printer, you can be your own Engineer, download the 3D Print files and print a prosthetic limb within your own home.

On a world stage, Mick Ebeling took his Engineering knowledge of 3D home printing to Sudan. Through project Daniel, Mick went to Sudan to print 3D arms for the children who lost their limbs and trained others to continue building 3D prosthetics for those who needed them. In a separate effort, Mick helped a professional graffiti artist, Tony Quan, otherwise known as Tempt One, suffering from ALS, to do what he loves once again. Tempt One had a passion for graffiti and when the ALS kicked in, he lost his mobility leaving him bed ridden. Inspired by the tools Stephen Hawking uses to communicate to the world, Mick, decided to build a similar low cost tool using dollar store sunglasses, a basic computer, opensource software, and a video game controller to create the same effect with significant results. In his efforts, Mick developed the eyewriter, allowing Tempt One to use his eyes to develop his art once again!  Learn more about this Mick Ebeling and his efforts on our blog article. If you are an Engineer and would like to be a part of the crowd-solving efforts established by Mick, you can apply to volunteer.

In other vision-enabled technology solutions, a student organization At Northeastern University, Enabling Engineering, won the prestigious ECE Capstone Design Competition by creating a robotic hand providing the ability feed oneself using eye-control. The idea was conceived when a young man, Tim, lost the use of his arms after a car accident and had to be fed by caregivers. Wanting his independence back, he took part in this project known as  iCraft2.0. The hand is controlled through open source eye-tracking software. This engineering design, provides independence to a disabled individual and the tools to become self-sufficient. Read more about the engineering strategy for the iCraft2.0 project.

There are opportunities for individuals that may have a disability to work in the engineering field. Some of the jobs that are offered are in the fields of Computer, Civil, and Industrial Engineering just to name a few. If you know of someone with a disability who would like to showcase their skills, have them take a look at the NTI division, where we can help you find a role as an engineer in your related field. Alternatively, if you are on disability, have a Ticket to Work and are already working, we can help you attain work related reimbursements up to $10,000.  Find out more at

Don’t take the little things for granted, the next time you have to access a building; don’t forget the people who make that possible. Happy National Engineers Week.

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