IMPACT
02/11/2016 05:21 pm ET Updated Feb 23, 2016

Kids May Soon Be Able To Build Their Own Prosthetics Out Of Legos

A customizable Lego prosthetic arm for children has been awarded the grand prize at Netexplo, a digital innovation summit in Paris.
Chicago-based Colombian designer, Carlos Arturo Torres seeks to find a balance between play and functionality with Lego prost
Carlos Arturo Torres
Chicago-based Colombian designer, Carlos Arturo Torres seeks to find a balance between play and functionality with Lego prosthetics.

An idea to create Lego prosthetics for children is getting the chance to see the light of day.

Iko Creative Prosthetic System, a customizable prosthetic arm, won the 2016 Netexplo prize, which was announced Wednesday at the Paris Dauphine University. Previous Netexplo winners include Twitter and Slack.

Iko, a prosthetic arm, can be customized with Lego pieces of different colors and shapes, giving the children who wear them a chance for self-expression. Lego bricks are attached to a battery-powered prosthetic arm and a 3D-printed socket. The arm is designed for children between ages 3 and 12, and aims to reduce the stigma around having a prosthetic limb.

Carlos Arturo Torres, who started developing Iko while doing an internship at Lego’s experimental research department, Future Lab, is continuing to work on the project, and hopes to launch the product in mid-2017.

"Legos around the prosthetic allow the child to adapt the object," Torres told HuffPost France. "He can choose when he wants to use the object and when he doesn’t. He's in control."

"If children could set up their own prosthesis, that would be ideal. For them to have fun, create; quite simply, be children," the Colombian inventor said.

As he accepted the award, Torres also explained the importance of using objects children were already familiar with.

"The magic of this project is finding tools that already work in the real world: Legos," Torres said. "They allow children to try out the object, the prosthetic, without being afraid of it."

While the concept is appealing, fundraising is proving to be challenging. To nudge investors, children have penned letters to large companies informing them of the invention.

The technology is another obstacle to the project's progress. "Connecting the prosthesis to Legos via electricity hasn't been an easy task. Today, we prefer going the Bluetooth route, which would be able to communicate with cell phones,” Torres explained.

"We are very close to completing this second prototype, and we're appealing to investors so that research and development can continue," he said.

Iko was in competition with nine other finalists, which were chosen from over 200 inventions from 2015.

Among them was a project dubbed Wonolo, an employment agency that allows employers, companies or private individuals to find the ideal candidate and set pay according to the person's ratings and the job difficulty. 

Another notable innovation are "microswimmer robots" created by researchers from Drexel University in Philadelphia. The miniaturized robots could be used in complicated surgery by unblocking arteries or delivering medication to a precise location in a patient's body.

This post first appeared on HuffPost France. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that design firm IDEO was involved in Torres' project, Iko Creative Prosthetic System. The firm is not involved with the project in any capacity.

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