Prosthetics for kids using LEGO

The IKO prosthetics system was conceptualised and designed by Columbian industrial designer Carlos Arturo Torres. Torres wanted to target the social and psychological needs of disabled children – not just the physical ones – by allowing them to custom-make their own prosthetics and have fun at the same time. Enter LEGO, probably one of the most successful toys ever, and which fosters the most creativity.

Torres recognised that while the physical trauma of amputation was large the psychological trauma was substantial too. Struck by the social rejection disabled children suffer, with their social circle confined to their relatives and their interaction with peers limited, he created a prosthetic that can be ‘cool’.

The prosthetic system consists of a socket, battery and a “create area”. The socket is where the stump makes contact with the prosthesis. The battery area contains a rechargeable battery and a processor that translates signals from the socket through the battery to the create area. The socket provides signals to the create area from the myoelectric signals embedded in it. It is permanently attached to the battery. Myoelectric sensors use the existing muscles in the residual limb to control its functions with one or more sensors embedded into the prosthetic socket. Lastly, the create area, where the hand would be located, is where the LEGO module resides, which the child can build with friends or family.

The hand is designed to perform the actions of a grip or a hook and take advantage of the myoelectric sensors. It can interpret the “double tap” of a specific muscle to grab, point, rotate or move however the child wants. 

Torres believes that rehabilitating kids is not a matter of finding and fitting the best or the most technological prosthetics on the market, but rather about guiding the young patient to deal with his or her unexpected limitation.

He collaborated with CIREC and LEGO Future Lab. CIREC, a Columbian non-profit organisation, gives people disabled by the armed conflict in Columbia new possibilities. They brought their institutional knowledge of disability and psychology to the conceptualisation of IKO. LEGO future lab, a division from Lego systems that creates visions for the future of play, brought their knowledge of children’s creativity to the project.

"When I was testing the prototype I planned two different sessions, one that was hard to achieve and forced the kid to use his family and people nearby to finish, and a second one easy enough to involve a normal kid and get a glimpse the social dynamics that the system could create." Carlos Arturo Torres

See the video of the kids in action here

Article edited and condensed Source: DESIGNINDABA