For These Kids, Turning a Limb Difference Into a Superpower Is a Matter of Tech
Superhero Boost is a weeklong program committed to helping kids reframe a limb difference as an opportunity to create cool prosthetics and other body mods.
Sponsored by Google, Autodesk, Born Just Right, and KIDmob, the program is open to kids age 11–17 who have upper-limb differences or who use wheelchairs. The workshop introduces kids to new technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, and artificial intelligence, which the kids use to create their own personal wearable devices designed to release their own inner superheroes. Watch this inspiring video to see what the kids came up with this year.
Kate Ganim, Codirector of KIDmob: Superhero Boost is about rethinking disability as superability. It’s sponsored at Autodesk. We’re working with 3D printers and Autodesk design software and Google AI technology to work with kids with limb differences to design and prototype their own superpowers.
Our hope with this program is that kids understand their disability in a different way. It’s about building confidence. It’s about building technical skills and understanding that they have the capabilities to come up with ideas and make those ideas real—they’re not just subject to maybe prosthetics that are available on the market—that they can come up with and make their own, and it doesn’t just have to stop at the functionality of whatever limb they’re missing. It could do whatever they want and things that hands or legs can’t do.
Sarah O’Rourke, Youth Strategist, Autodesk: On day 1, they come in to the workshop. They really don’t know anyone. They kind of are a little leery. At the end of the first day, you’ve made your best friends. To see the kids come back the next day, they’re joking around; they’re joking with their mentors and the participants, and it’s pretty amazing because you’re giving them that confidence to have a design mind-set and move things forward. They do that in collaboration, which is a lot of fun.
Jordan Reeves: Design has definitely helped how I think about what I’ll do in the future. I probably want to be a designer when I grow up for fun stuff and also some helpful stuff.
O’Rourke: When you show a kid how they can take that idea and they have that a-ha moment, it’s a pretty amazing thing because you have the potential to change the course of their lives.
Jen Lee Reeves, Founder, Born Just Right: You may have a two-handed life, but that doesn’t mean you know how life is led. Life can be led with one hand, no hands, no arms, one arm—it doesn’t matter.
Tracie Wims: Isaiah’s actually taught me more than I ever thought I’d have to teach him. He’s very confident with the way that he was born. He embraces his difference. He figures out how to do anything that he needs to do. It’s just been fantastic. Everybody’s been friendly, accommodating. Isaiah’s learned so much. There are things in the future for him.
He just graduated high school and is trying to figure out what he wants to do in the world, and I think this has given him a better idea of things that are out there for him.
Isaiah Wims: The biggest thing I’m going to take away is just believing in myself more and knowing what I can do, knowing what I’m capable of.
O’Rourke: When they leave, they leave understanding how things are made. The next time they walk down the street and look at a building, they’ll look at it differently. The next time they get into a car, maybe they’ll want to think about how they can redesign it.
Ganim: There’s nothing that would make me happier with these workshops, if after they leave, they have their device and they’re wearing it, and other kids come running up to them and are like, “Whoa. That’s so cool. I wish I had one of those. How can I get one?”