Innovative practices (abridged)
Teenagers develop 3D-printed bionic arm 30 times cheaper than existing prosthetics
Somewhere in downtown Skopje, North Macedonia, amid the purring of engines and honking of sirens, 17-year-old Boris meanders the many streets and alleys of the city to make his way into an inconspicuous building not far from the plaza. He steps into a small makeshift workshop lined with shelves full of odd machines, wrenches, screwdrivers, crates and canisters with labels of all kinds. Joining three other teenagers, he sits in front of a 3D printer. It is printing a prosthetic arm.
One glance suffices to realize that Boris and his friends are not just high-school students. They are also remarkable innovators with a zeal and fervor about their work that is contagious.
“People look differently at young innovators like us—they don’t believe that we are capable of creating impactful innovations that help people at large,” says Boris. “But we like to think differently.”
Driven by a deep desire to create affordable solutions for people with disabilities, 17-year-old Boris Nocheski, 17-year-old Anamaria Ilieva, 16-year-old Teo Kitanovski, and 17-year-old Orhan Bahashov are using 3D printing technology to create a user-friendly bionic arm that is 1/30th of the price of existing prosthetics. And it can “grow” with children as they develop physiologically!
Globally, millions of people suffer from upper limb deficiencies, which can affect physical and mental health and inhibit people from leading productive lives. Prosthetic arms and artificial limbs can vastly improve the ability of people living with upper limb disabilities to be independent and engage in daily activities. But prosthetic limbs are expensive, need to be routinely replaced because of wear and tear, and are therefore out of reach for millions of people across the globe.
“Currently-available bionic arms are inaccessible—they cost thousands of dollars, can only be bought in a few developed countries, and must be continuously changed if you’re a young person, as your body is constantly growing,” says Boris, who is the co-founder of eBionics. “We believe that these problems can be solved by approaching the [bionic arm] technology differently.”
The Roaring Twenties: Educating the Covid-19 Generation
One hundred years ago the world was emerging from the last global pandemic, the Spanish flu. Politicians assumed that people would want to go “back to normal”, but they were wrong. Change accelerated as if citizens wanted to make up for the years lost to World War 1 and the pandemic. The Roaring Twenties were a decade of economic growth, of seemingly unbounded energy and new thinking. But just as some benefitted from more prosperous lives, many fell further behind.
We should prepare for the same happening this time. The 2020s will be a decade of astonishing change, driven by technology and the radical economic shifts needed to address the climate. This raises the question: will this change reduce or increase the current inequality of opportunity and wealth? The question is complex, but the answer simple. It’s all about education. It depends on whether we can equip young people, especially those furthest left behind, with the skills and adaptability they will need to thrive. This is also the conclusion of a new report of the World Economic Forum released today.
Unfortunately, for millions, the prospect of acquiring these skills remains elusive. Young people are reaching adulthood woefully ill-equipped. Before the pandemic, millions were already out of school and only 21% of secondary school-age children in low-income and 50% in middle-income countries were on track to reach basic secondary learning benchmarks. The pandemic is likely to worsen these scenarios.
Resetting education for young people requires three disruptions if the 2020s are to be more than just roaring for everybody. First, we need a radical change in pedagogy that enables young people to experience far more adaptive and engaging ways of learning. This will be especially relevant as we address learning losses due to school closures, but it will also be critical in the longer term. Adaptive learning practices and targeting teaching by learning level are smart buys for policymakers particularly in countries with wide variations in learning levels. So how do we make this happen at scale? Technology could be a big game-changer in this pedagogical revolution, but its rollout should be rigorously focused on closing equity gaps, not exacerbating them. Close to one-quarter of lower secondary and 18% of upper secondary students are not being reached by any form of digital or broadcast remote learning opportunities. The Education Commission recently launched the High Touch High Tech Global Consortium to explore how we can get the most out of technological opportunities while keeping teachers at the heart of learning...