5 Life Lessons From An Amazing Young Inventor

I’m proud to admit it. I’m a card carrying, hands-on, tinkering kind of engineer at heart. I also love helping, and learning about, young people who seem to have similar interests.

5 Life Lessons

These are two of the many reasons why I was thoroughly enthralled with a story that arrived in my Inbox recently from the folks at Interesting Engineering.

It’s a about an amazing young man named Easton LaChappelle, from rural Colorado, who’s been working since he was 14 on developing a low-cost, realistic prosthetic arm. 

Rather than stealing his story and telling it poorly, I want to suggest that you watch him tell it in the 10-minute YouTube video below. His delivery is to an audience of hundreds at TEDx MileHigh in 2013.

 So what do you think? An inspiring and powerful story, yes?

While I know there are young people around the globe doing wonderful work every day, there was something about Easton’s demeanor, his presentation and his accomplishments that really struck me.

Here are five life lessons that I took away from his TEDx Talk:

1. Be Curious

Curiosity is the seed that started Easton’s work with robotics, but an “Aha” moment with a 7 yr-old girl who’s prosthetic arm cost $80,000 is what changed his thinking forever. That chance meeting fueled his efforts and resulted in a working arm that cost under $400 to build.

As he shared late in the video, “It started from boredom and became something that can change people’s lives.” He also offered, “What’s gotten me here is curiosity. It’s what makes the world go around.”

2. Be Persistent

A lot of years passed by as Easton continued working on his robotic arm project, alone in his bedroom in rural Colorado. Constrained by a lack of money (which turned out to be a very good thing) and other resources, more than once he found himself wondering if he should give the whole thing up.

But he didn’t. Month after month, he forged ahead and by the end of the video he revealed to us that he was living in Houston and working for NASA on a robotics program there. He’s had quite a journey so far, and he’s just getting started.

3. Ask For Help

Living where he did in Colorado, Easton didn’t have access to a university or other technical resources. As a result, he turned to the Internet for the help and learning he needed.

More importantly, a turning point for the entire project was when he reached out to a friend in New York who owned a 3D printer. That was a game changer for the project. Since then, 3D printing has been at the core of Easton’s success in rapid prototyping better quality arms at lower and lower costs.

4. Be Brave and Tell Your Story

Kudos to Easton LaChapelle for stepping onto the TEDx stage to share his story there, but also for sharing it on YouTube.

As I watched him I sensed some uneasiness as he spoke to the group, but at the same time you could tell he loved telling his story. He was authentic, he knew his stuff, and he even injected some humor and brief laughs into his program.

For most of the population, public speaking doesn’t come easily. Easton taught us not to let those fears hold us back.

5. Share Your Successes

I was impressed, but not terribly surprised, to learn in the Interesting Engineering post that Easton is making all the details of his project available to the public, free of charge.

Here’s what the post shared, “On his company’s website, UnlimitedTomorrow.com, you could download the instructions, designs, and software he used, so you could build it too. The guide shows you how to build the hand, elbow, and rotating joint. Instructions on how to build the shoulder will be released soon.”

This says a lot about this young man doesn’t it? I want to leave you with his closing comment from the video,

I challenge you to look beyond the boundaries…and to be curious!


Question: What inspired you the most about Easton’s presentation and accomplishments? You can leave a comment by clicking here.