Jul 26, 2018

Frank from the UK volunteered with us for over a month during a year off from his degree in Mechanical Engineering. He came to Medellin to support us with his knowledge in 3D printing technology and engineering design skills. We were curious and asked him about his experience at e-NABLE:

“I applied to volunteer at e-NABLE after a friend of mine from University mentioned the project to me. It was my first time in Medellín and my first experience working with electronics and robotics. Lots of volunteers come to help e-NABLE and I quickly made a great group of friends in the team. There is a great vibe in the office so it definitely doesn’t feel like going to work. We’ve shared a lot of fun moments over the last few weeks – lots of laughs in the office and in the bars along Calle diez.

Whilst in Medellín my main project has been to develop a prototype robotic hand for recipients with limited arm movement. So far e-NABLE as successfully produced mechanically actuated devices – moving the arm or wrist to close the fingers. The aim with the robotic hand is to be able to control the fingers from muscle sensors. We are now able to control the hand from a computer, so the next step is connecting it via Bluetooth to the sensors.  I’ve also worked on another project whilst here with Eric, an engineer from California. We designed an adaptive device to help a local drummer called Jaime to play his drums more easily.

Whilst here I usually arrive in the morning around 9.30 and work alone for a bit, maybe doing some CAD design or programming. Most restaurants in Colombia do a ‘Menu del día’ where you get a delicious lunch for 12mil pesos (a few dollars) so we often head out together to somewhere round the corner from the office. Usually the whole team is around in the afternoon, and sometimes recipients will come in to the office so we can make some changes and fit the devices. The beauty of 3D printing is that we can make amendments easily, in a style of the user’s choice. Before heading home we set up the 3D printers to run overnight so we have parts ready for the next day.

I’ve had some great moments whilst working with e-NABLE. It was awesome when the robotic hand first moved its fingers automatically – a lot of work went in to achieve that, with parts being ordered from the US, Bogotá and all over Medellín. Seeing Jaime testing out his new drumstick holder was something I won’t forget for a while.

I am leaving Medellin after these four weeks with mixed feelings – I am excited to be heading home and to start my new job in the UK, but I will miss the team at e-NABLE and the can-do ethos that Adam has created. It won’t be the last time I visit Colombia!”

With your help, we hope to transform the lives of many more people.