Carlos Arturo Torres: “In Colombia we’ve had violent conflict for 50 years. Our generation always has it on our minds”
Dario lifted up the LEGO digger attached to his right arm prosthetic and grinned. Dario, 11, is from Bogota in Colombia. Born with a congenital disease that left him without a right forearm, he is one of thousands of limbless children in Colombia, where landmines laid in the war between the government and Farc guerrillas have blown away the limbs of thousands of Colombians, many of them children.
“In Colombia we’ve had a violent conflict for 50 years and our generation always has that on our minds,” says designer Carlos Arturo Torres. “Once in a while you hear about a child losing a leg or an arm.”
Designer wanted to help his compatriots, so he made the IKO Creative Prosthetic System: a bionic arm that’s LEGO-compatible. “My ambition is for every kid in the world to learn about robotics and forget about disability,” says the 33-year-old. “When you introduce the IKO, the word ‘disability’ suddenly takes a different colour.”
Torres was interning at LEGO’s Future Lab in Denmark and studying for a master’s in design when he had the idea.
“It started with the psychological needs of the children,” he says. “When you’re a kid, one of the most important things to nurture is not how to use a prosthetic, but how to communicate, how to interact.”
The 3D printed prosthetic, which is currently in testing, has a module that lets children attach the bionic hand and LEGO parts with a simple “push and lock” movement. At night, the battery-powered device goes on a charger.
“We wanted a charging station, because kids don’t actually have a place to put their prosthetic,” Torres says. “Kids don’t feel like it belongs to them. It’s their parents’ and it’s just lying around.”
Each IKO Creative Prosthetic System costs up to $5,000 (£3,500) to manufacture, which is a quarter of the typical price of similar prosthetics – but Torres hopes to bring the cost down even further.