Easton LaChappelle was a kid who took apart everything he could get his hands on. “My escape was building things,” he says. He laughs, remembering the time he was dismantling a microwave in his bedroom when his father walked in and wordlessly placed a fire extinguisher on the floor.
When Easton submitted a robotic arm for his 8th grade science fair, he wasn’t expecting it to be the catalyst for a lifelong pursuit of changing people’s lives. But on that day, after meeting a little girl whose basic prosthetic arm had cost her family more than $80,000 (and would need to be replaced once a year as she grew), he found his purpose: building an affordable robotic prosthetic for the millions of people worldwide just like her.
Meet Momo: Easton's inspiration
Years later, Easton was approached by a nonprofit that had been working with an 9-year-old girl named Momo, who was missing her right arm below the elbow. As he learned about Momo’s story, he was struck by how much she reminded him of the girl who inspired his journey in the first place and agreed she was the perfect candidate for the device he had in development.
It’s my mission to use technology to make prosthetics more accessible to those who need them.Easton LaChappelle
Easton and Momo meet: the moment they’ve both been working toward
Over the next year, Easton worked around the clock to build Momo’s new right hand, including two months of 10-hour days working with Microsoft engineers in the secretive Advanced Prototyping Center, where many of the world's newest technology are born. Finally, the arm was done and it was time for the big reveal.
When asked what his hopes are for the future, Easton says, “We’re going to [keep working] to make this better and better.” It’s the same relentless pursuit of “what’s next?” that left him with a fire extinguisher on his bedroom floor in the 6th grade. But now, it’s not because he’s bored; it’s because the people who are living with his technology—and the people he has yet to reach—deserve it. For Easton, that’s more than enough to keep him going until tomorrow.