5 pieces of plastic + 4 nuts and bolts = The ability to walk again.

Kamal in motion using the $20 Jaipur Knee.

When I think of school projects, it usually involves gobs of construction paper, glue sticks, and an inordinate amount of swearing. When Joel Sadler and Eric Thorsell, two brilliant engineering grad students at Stanford, tackled their school project they created the Jaipur Knee, an extremely inexpensive ($20) prosthetic knee that mimics the natural joint’s movement and is both flexible and stable – a revolutionary improvement, particularly for amputees in developing countries.

The Jaipur Knee, was developed with the Jaipur Foot Organization BMVSS of India, as part of a Stanford initiative to bring technical engineering problem-solving to organizations like Jaipur Foot that have tremendous skills in outfitting the amputees with prosthetics– they just needed a better knee.

Amputees in the Jaipur Foot Clinic, India

Because Joel was also taking courses at Stanford’s D School where methodology starts with a human understanding of a technical problem, Joel & Eric first traveled to India to meet their “consumer.” The tangible experience of what it means to be poor and disabled in a developing country, like their new friend 17-year old Kamal, profoundly influenced Joel and Eric and helped inform their ultimate design.

Simply. Beautiful.

The beauty of the Jaipur Knee is its simplicity, but the process of discovery was long and arduous. Joel & Eric produced more than 50 prototypes of the device – beginning with foam core, hinges & duct tape (and quite possibly, an inordinate amount of swearing), before they settled on a 5-piece polycentric  design made of hard plastic and four bolts,  that 400 amputees in India are now using to walk, work, and live productive, dignified lives.

Eric, Joel, and Kamal

The Jaipur Knee has been recognized by Time magazine as one of the “Top 50 inventions of 2009” and Joel & Eric have formed a new company Re:Motion Designs whose mission is to bring high-performance, low-cost prosthetics to the developing world. “There is no greater reward than to have something you’ve designed be used to change a life and enable someone to walk again,” says Joel.

Re:Motion contributors, past & present

In India alone, there are 1.6 million above-the-knee amputees who are candidates for the $20 Jaipur Knee, which is so cheap and easy to make, it can be manufactured locally in India – or Haiti – or anywhere that land mines, war and diabetes are taking limbs.

My $100 today goes to Joel Sadler and Eric Thorsell’s Re:Motion Designs in honor of their brilliant engineering and deep compassion.

5 thoughts on “5 pieces of plastic + 4 nuts and bolts = The ability to walk again.

  1. Betty, it would be great if you would also mention in your posts the Twitter feeds of some of these people and organizations that you are assisting and promoting. Remotion:Designs are at @Remotiondesigns, for example. I’ve started following a lot of them.

  2. Betty, how do you find all these amazing causes and groups to support? You impress and inspire me daily, even if I don’t respond to every posting. Of course, we’re particularly proud of this group being they were Stanford students!

    Kudos again for this impressive project…I actually emailed the Ellen DeGeneres show yesterday suggesting she do a feature on you and your 365 Project!!!


    • My awesome friend Sam Moss, who works with Bob Pattillo, (he turned me on to all the incredible Unreasonable Institute folks), anyhow, Sam judges a lot of the Social Entrepreneurs competitions, and he sent me the Re:Motion story when he met them in the competition at Berkeley … yeah, how ’bout those Stanford guys — so GREAT!

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