The Daniel Arm:   Act! Don’t Just Fret!

By Shlomo  Maital

 Daniel Omar

Daniel Omar (right) and his 3D Printed Prosthetic Arm

   In our new book The Imagination Elevator,  the first of 10 key principles for structured creativity is this:   Act, Don’t Just Gripe.  Take action to right a wrong, rather than just talk about it – at least some of the time.

  Writing in The Guardian, Jan. 19,  Emma Bryce recounts how Mike Ebeling, a Los Angeles resident and entrepreneur, did just this. 

     As the  founder of an American startup called Not Impossible Labs, an organisation that builds open-access devices to assist people facing seemingly insurmountable physical challenges,  Ebeling recounts how TIME magazine wrote about Daniel Omar, South Sudan, who in March 2012, at the age of 14, “embraced a tree trunk to shield himself from a bomb’s blow, and stepped away without his hands. Aware of the burden he would place on his family, in 2012 Omar told a Time reporter that he would rather have died when the government’s Antonov aircraft dropped its lethal cargo.”   [This brings to mind the current Syrian Government’s policy of dropping oil drums filled with explosives on civilian buildings in Aleppo, killing thousands].   

    Seeing this declaration on paper shocked Mick Ebeling.    Ebeling read this and thought,  “I’ve got three little boys…   It was hard for me to read a story about a young boy who had lost his arms.”

    Here is what he did, according to Bryce.    “In November 2013, Ebeling travelled to Sudan for a month, hoping to find Daniel and build him an arm. He took with him printers, spools of plastic and cables. The 3D printers that create the prosthetic’s plastic parts make the device seem hi-tech, but the resulting arm is really just a simple, mechanical device. The arm works by using movement to trigger cables, threaded throughout the plastic structure like ligaments. When the user flexes and bends the remaining portion of their arm, this motion tenses the cables, which in turn curl and uncurl the fingers at the tip.”

      “Since Ebeling has returned home, one prosthetic a week has been printed, thanks to two 3D printers he left behind. The machines sit humming industriously – mostly at night when it’s cool enough for them to work. The printed parts are then collected by eight local people trained to operate the machines, assemble the arms, and customize them for recipients.”

     Ebeling identified an unmet need, one he was passionate about; thought creatively about simple, inexpensive solutions (the prosthetic arm costs a total of $100, a fraction of conventional prosthetics),  and took action, getting on a plane and going to the site.  

    If only more of us would do the same.