This is the story of a boy with a big vision who set it in motion and never gave up. Along the way, he engaged thousands of people who were older, younger, wiser, not so wise,or smarter- maybe. His biggest contribution was igniting the imaginations of other thinkers who wanted to be part of something really good. Along the way, he learned the power to engage others.
Easton LaChappelle entered a science fair with a robotic prosthetic arm that he built when he was 14 years old. There, he met a seven-year-old girl named Momo, who was born with only the upper half of her arm. He chatted with her parents and learned that prosthetic arms cost around $100K and must be replaced with every growth spurt.
He became invested in making a better and much less expensive arm. He got to work.
When he spoke at CES (the big boy of Electronic Advance Products – The Consumer Electronics Show) before he was 20, he explained that in the early years nobody understood what he was doing.
Who helped this young man?
Well, he mentions, in many of his talks, his insatiable curiosity in the form of taking everything in sight apart. His parents were his first encouragers seeing his immense curiosity and fostering that drive while trying to keep everyone in the family safe. (He was taking a microwave oven apart in his room one day when his father entered and placed a fire extinguisher next to him, then left. That’s encouragement and a belief in keeping that curiosity alive and growing.
He was 15 when he got a call from the Robonaut department of NASA after Popular Mechanics published an article about him. They asked him: “What are you doing this summer?”
He said: “When NASA calls you and asks that question, you aren’t doing anything!”
He spent time with the scientists at NASA, worked, and learned more as he perfected his arm.
After that, word spread, and he got a call and an invitation from Microsoft’s engineering team for new products.
Everyone on the engineering team got so engaged they stayed overtime and loved every minute. He encouraged them by introducing them to a new set of eyes that looked at the problems they were used to solving in a different way. When Momo came, there were those fighting back tears.
They brought Momo to Seattle to receive her arm. Here is a video of this part.
Encouragement is a circular action. The giver sparks an idea that then can set off fireworks in others. Those fireworks may come back as new ideas for making something or someone better.
This is a beautiful story. The other side is from Momo’s mom, who was on a visit to an orphanage in China and was stopped in her tracks by a baby with a most beautiful smile and part of her arm missing.
Easton made the arm, made his technology open source, and made the ability to be printed on a 3D printer lowering the cost to several thousand dollars.
Easton is changing hearts and minds, opening up frontiers that were undeveloped until now, and with each new idea, he sends his sparks of encouragement flying out where they will land and start to grow. They may return to him or set a new direction, but think of all the concentric circles of the good he has ignited. Wow!
Big hearts and minds change us. They are not afraid to stay with their vision and ideas until people finally understand.