Since his first version, using LEGO bricks, fishing wire, surgical tube and five servomechanisms, he’s made leaps and bounds making his ‘robo-hand.’ At the state science fair, where robo-hand stole the show, he met a young girl who had been born without a right arm, her prosthetic had cost her family $80 000 (USD)— and would need continual replacement as she grew. “That kind of opened my eyes,” said Easton, now 17. “I thought I could turn (my invention) into a prosthetic arm and help a lot of people.” Version 3.0 of the robot uses a Teensy Arduino microcontroller as well as amplifier circuits and Bluetooth receivers. To control the arm, the user flexes a muscle to choose from a menu of movements then performs a series of eye blinks to select pre-loaded gestures such as hand, elbow or wrist movements. Once a movement is selected, an EEG headset measures brainwaves to control the movement. Total cost for the device? $250 (USD). Except for the gears, motors, and screws, all parts were 3D printed on a Printrbot. Easton counts Printrbot founder Brook Drumm as a key mentor.
Ultimately, Easton foresees his prosthetic making a meaningful impact in the world, helping those in need or providing a safe alternative to human hands in dangerous situations like bomb defusal or search and rescue. In the meantime, Dutch beer company, Heineken, has pre-ordered 5 000 units to pour their beer at bars. Scaling production (crowdfunded on Kickstarter) means the ball is rolling. Easton has already been extended a university scholarship and he says a company in Minnesota has offered to pay his rent if he moves there to work for them while he finishes school. But he’s kind of busy. This summer he’s got an internship at NASA where he’ll work on their robonaut project, and of course, prom is coming.