We can land spaceships on comets. Why can’t we design prosthetics for Veterans?

Andrea Ippolito, Presidential Innovation Fellow at Veterans Affairs

Army Veteran Lisa Marie Wiley is faced with the everyday reality of people staring at her below knee amputation caused by an injury inflicted by an IED in Afghanistan in November 2010. While strong-willed and resilient, Lisa can’t help but feel frustrated that only a handful of the 10,000 prosthetic legs available can meet her specific body type and needs to function and resume her quality of life. As Lisa stated, “if we can land spacecraft on comets, why can’t we build personalized devices for our Nation’s Veterans?” By leveraging the growing movement of 3D printing in healthcare exploding across the US and the world—we can.

While we often think of personalized and precision medicine related to providing the proper dosage of medications based on individual’s genetic information, personal predilections, and environmental context, additive manufacturing or fabrication (often more commonly referred to as 3D printing) offers a new paradigm to design devices based on individual needs and preferences. 3D printing is emerging across healthcare in surgery, patient education, prosthetics, and bioprinting tissue and organs. We’ve seen the power of 3D printing to inspire a global network of volunteers in the eNABLE community to build prosthetic 3D printed hands for over 1500 children missing their fingers or arms below the elbow.

Imagine losing your ability to use a utensil, use a video game controller or even continue a beloved hobby like photography.  The Department of Veterans Affairs is aiming to accelerate the development of technologies to improve the quality of life of Veterans and invites all designers, engineers, and problem solvers alike, to the first VA Innovation Creation Series: Prosthetics and Assistive Technology Challenge.

Only a handful of the 10,000 prosthetic legs available can meet her specific body type

We would love to work together with you to solve the following challenges for our nation’s Veterans:

  • Develop novel upper extremity devices at the end of prosthesis for daily use.
  • Create a medication pillbox that allows the flexibility to hold medications that need to be taken up to 8 times a day with a reminder system for each time medication needs to be taken.
  • Create a device that can dampen tremors when a Veteran is performing fine motor tasks
  • Design a device to remotely change the speed and grip strength of a prosthetic device for our Veterans with upper extremity injuries.
  • Create a way to reassign motions and buttons on the Nintendo Wii controller to allow for alternative methods of access to games for Veterans with physical disabilities.
  • Customize prosthetics and prosthetic covers for women amputees for individuality to empower women to live more confident lives, in collaboration with The Girls Lounge

We would be honored to have you participate in a make-a-thon to support the development of prosthetics  assistive technologies for our nation’s Veterans on July 28th and 29th! At the make-a-thon, we will highlight specific challenges facing our Veterans surrounding prosthetics + assistive technologies. Participants will then have the opportunity to pitch or present different problems or painpoints impacting differently-abled Veterans. Participants will have the opportunity to win up to $30,000 in cash prizes from Google.org at the event! All designs will be open-sourced at the end of the challenge for use in communities via the NIH 3D Print Exchange. You can sign up for the makeathon event here!

More information is available on the VA Innovation Creation Series website.

Come work together to solve the challenges impacting our nation’s Veterans!