Limbitless Solutions, the UCF-based nonprofit and UCF direct support organization that manufactures bionic limbs for children, celebrated its eighth anniversary this month. The program has seen impressive growth over the past year, beginning with the move to a new facility in July 2021. The additional space has enabled record internship and research participation by UCF undergraduate students, while also providing a new home for visits from bionic families .
“What started as a dream at a kitchen table has grown so much bigger than we ever imagined,” he says Albert Manero ’12 ’14MS ’16PhD, UCF graduate and co-founder of Limbitless Solutions. “We are very excited to celebrate our eighth anniversary of the program and to see both the program and our bionic children grow up. Over the past year, our impact at Limbitless Solutions has reached new heights as we ramp up the program to scale our impact.”
Limbitless Solutions began with a mission to improve accessibility and empower children and adults in the limb disparity community. The first delivery of a bionic arm was on July 23, 2014. Through personalized, creative, and expressive bionics—delivered without financial burden—the team empowers the use of innovative technology and interdisciplinary collaboration to address accessibility issues. Limbitless is developing muscle-based biosensor technology, including multi-gesture bionic arms, hands-free wheelchair controls, and interactive video game training.
The new facility is adjacent to the main campus in Central Florida Research Park and is accessible to UCF students via the UCF shuttle. The renovation for Limbitless Solutions was made possible by philanthropy and sponsorship funds that have enabled the student program to grow from 29 in summer 2021 to 49 in summer 2022. This growth is in preparation for scaling the excellence and impact of the bionic arm program.
This year, Limbitless Solutions announced two new clinical trials: the first with Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital and the second with Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Orlando Health Mark Birnbaum, Pediatric Orthopedist, Arnold Palmer, will serve as principal investigator for the 14-month study. The study will evaluate the effectiveness of video game-based training to help children learn how to use prosthetic arms. This is the first Florida-based study for Limbitless and builds on the partnership that began in 2018 with researchers at Oregon Health & Science University in a clinical trial that will conclude this fall.
With Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla. and Nemours Children’s Health Jacksonville, Limbitless will conduct an innovative clinical study that will examine how children’s brains respond to learning to use the prosthesis, using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to verify the nerve pathways used. The four-month study is scheduled to open this fall. It uniquely utilizes video game-based training—led by UCF faculty members Matt Dombrowski ’05 ’08MFA with the UCF School of Visual Arts and Design and Peter Smith ’05MS ’12PhD with UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media – which translates muscle tension into the actions of the video game character.
The power of collaboration
The new facility opened up even more interdisciplinary opportunities – with the program now representing students from six colleges plus faculties from across the university. The summer semester of 2022 welcomed 48 students to the program – the largest class in Limbitless history. With faculty from the College of Arts and Humanities’ School of Visual Arts and Design and the College of Sciences Department of Games and Interactive Media, Limbitless has continued to create new video games to help kids prime their muscles while learning to use their Limbitless prosthetics designed to control.
Faculty and students worked with one of the bionic kids to create a comic book based on the bionic kids’ stories. The Bionic Kid Comic Book has raised over $12,000 to support future bionic children’s participation in the program – backed by endorsements from two Hollywood actors and several Fortune 500 companies. The importance of an inclusive portrayal of disability in the media aligns with the mission and inspires the Limbitless Solutions team. Bionic Kid comic artists and Associate Professors of SVAD Victor Davila ’97 ’07MFA and Dombrowski, along with the Limbitless student creative team, brought the hero’s story to life while conveying the message that heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
Limitless continues to have local and global implications. Engineering student Madison Adams recently spoke to United Nations (UN) delegates about inequalities in sport at the second Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on the Role of Sport in Addressing Inequalities in Times of Crisis and Recovery, a discussion hosted virtually by the UN became Ministry of Economics and Social Affairs, Department for Inclusive Social Development.
In central Florida, the Limbitless facility hosted several K-12 educational opportunities, including a special visit by Boy Scout Troop 1521. Second through eighth grade Boy Scouts conducted a special project to simulate our bionic arms. Limbitless aims to inspire the next generation of innovators with more K-12 events in the coming year.
The program looks forward to another year of growth and welcoming patients from the new clinical trials. The impact of Limbitless Solutions is not achieved alone and would not be possible without the support of the community, corporate partners, staff, participating students and faculty.
As Limbitless continues to help families, industry leaders recognize the organization’s innovative strength. That Orlando BusinessJournal honored 25 local businesses with the newspaper’s inaugural Inno Fire Awards. The awards recognized companies for their innovation, growth and impact in the Central Florida region. The top winners were named Blazers 2022 and awarded red blazers. Limbitless Solutions received the Top Blazer Award in the Established Players category (companies that have been in operation for eight to ten years).
Limbitless Solutions was also a finalist for the Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Award, which recognizes the state’s top manufacturers based on a rigorous evaluation process led by industry experts. A panel of judges evaluated more than 160 nominees in the areas of leadership, strategy, customer service, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, human resources and operations. The 23 finalists are seen as role models for the state. Limbitless Solutions was one of two Orlando-based finalists.
About limitless solutions
Limbitless Solutions is a nonprofit and direct support organization at UCF dedicated to improving accessibility and empowering children and adults in the limb disparity community. Through personalized, creative and expressive bionics delivered without financial burden, the team aims to strengthen the use of innovative technologies and interdisciplinary collaboration to address accessibility issues. Limbitless is developing muscle-based biosensor technology, including multi-gesture bionic arms, hands-free wheelchair controls, and interactive video game training. Limbitless combines technology and art to encourage access and engagement in STEAM learning experiences for a more inclusive future. Students from diverse academic perspectives participate in project-based learning, professional development, and research experiences where students put academics into practice in an environment designed to make a difference, as well as professional and technical development.