Impressions on the lecture “How to make a difference: Free 3D printed devices for earthquake victims“ given by Zeynep Karagöz (Robotel Türkiye)
Author: Melike Şahinol
3 April 2023
On February 6th, 2023, a massive earthquake struck southern and central Turkey, as well as northern and western Syria, creating significant challenges for those affected. The earthquake not only affected the physical structures and lives of the people in the area, but it also had a significant impact on the academic and professional communities located in the affected region. Our colleagues, students, and research facilities are all affected, disrupting our academic work and research activities.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are also facing challenges in the aftermath of the earthquake and are being called upon to provide support to those affected. However, NGOs are often stretched thin in the wake of natural disasters, and resources may be limited. It is crucial that NGOs work collaboratively with academic institutions and other organizations to coordinate their efforts and maximize the impact of their work.
As humanities scholars and social scientists, we recognize the importance of pooling our collaborations to organize meaningful responses. To this end, we recently organized a lecture titled „How to make a difference: Free 3D printed devices for earthquake victims“ given by Zeynep Karagöz, the co-founder of Robotel Türkiye (https://robotel.org/), a non-governmental organization working to provide support to those in need.
Flyer of the lecture “How to make a difference: Free 3D printed devices for earthquake victims“ given by Zeynep Karagöz (Robotel Türkiye)
Robotel Türkiye is the Turkish Chapter of e-NABLE, which “is an online global community of ‚Digital Humanitarian‘ volunteers from all over the world who are using their 3D printers to make free and low-cost prosthetic upper limb devices for children and adults in need. The open-source designs created by e-NABLE Volunteers help those who were born missing their fingers and hands or who have lost them due to war, natural disaster, illness or accidents.“ (https://enablingthefuture.org/) Robotel Türkiye produces economical and usable mechanical hands with 3D printers and shares them free of charge with individuals, especially children in Turkey, who need hand and finger prostheses (Bieling et al. 2022). The organization is currently receiving numerous requests from the earthquake-stricken region and urgently needs volunteers, as well as financial help, to continue their work.
During the lecture, Zeynep Karagöz spoke about the impact of Robotel Türkiye’s work and the urgent need for support. Their primary focus has been on providing mechanical hands, arms, and fingers to children, although they have also served adults upon request (Şahinol, 2022). However, recent events have led them to extend their services to include shoulder mechanisms, adult models, and orthotic prosthesis devices.
Userchild-V1-f playing a computer game on her laptop with an elbow actuated Robotel (Plate 3, Şahinol 2022, p. 8)
The provision of prosthetic devices to persons impacted by the earthquake is a challenging task that requires careful consideration and planning. One of the biggest challenges faced by Robotel Türkiye is the lack of complete information on the number of people who have lost limbs and need prosthetic devices. Without this information, it is difficult to determine the exact need for prosthetic materials and other necessities. The production of 3D printed prostheses requires specialized materials and equipment, as well as trained professionals who can design and create the devices. Finding the necessary resources and personnel in the aftermath of a disaster can be challenging, especially given the additional demands on local infrastructure and resources. Another challenge is the time required for wound healing after amputations. The wounds must heal completely before prosthetic devices can be fitted and used. This means that the calculation for prosthetic materials and other necessities must be delayed until the wounds have healed, which can further complicate the process. Additionally, Robotel Türkiye only makes hand and arm prostheses, and there are also requests for prosthetic legs. To address this issue, the organization will collaborate with other organizations to provide leg prostheses to those in need. This requires coordination and collaboration between different organizations, which can be challenging in a crisis situation. With careful planning and coordination, and the support of volunteers and donors, it is possible to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by the earthquake.
Zeynep Karagöz discussed the challenges and successes of their work, and the ways in which interested individuals can get involved and make a difference. She called for financial support from individuals, organizations, and institutions who share their vision of improving the lives of those who lack access to prosthetic devices. She emphasized that contributions will go a long way in helping Robotel Türkiye provide free prostheses to those who need them the most.
During the question and answer (Q&A) session that followed the presentation, participants had the opportunity to ask Karagöz various questions about the organization’s work and how people could contribute to their efforts. One participant asked about the timeframe for building a 3D printed prosthesis. Karagöz explained that the time required varies depending on the complexity the specific needs of the recipient and thus the (re)design of existing 3D models. Some prostheses could be printed within a few days, while others may take weeks to complete. One question raised during the Q&A session was whether children with 3D printed prostheses from other regions are going to the earthquake-affected regions to support those children who lost limbs. The aim would be to provide psychological support by allowing children in need to see others with similar conditions. In response, Karagöz acknowledged the importance of working with psychologists to develop effective outreach strategies and to provide children with the necessary support to cope with the trauma of losing a limb. Karagöz also conveyed her contentment that Yağmur, who was the first recipient of Robotel’s 3D-printed prosthesis at the age of six, has now turned fourteen and is volunteer at Robotel Türkiye, offering support to other children who require prosthetic aid. This significant development in Yağmur’s engagement with Robotel is especially significant, as it cultivates a sense of mutual experience and identity among the children, which has favorable psychological ramifications. Another question addressed the issue of integrating an NGO like Robotel into the medical landscape of other countries, such as Iran. Karagöz explained that such integration requires building partnerships with local medical institutions and obtaining the necessary approvals to operate in those regions. The question of how much prior knowledge is required to produce a 3D printed prosthesis was also raised, and Karagöz pointed to the resources available on the website of the worldwide e-NABLE network (https://enablingthefuture.org/) as a useful starting point for volunteers with different levels of experience. She emphasized that even people with little technical expertise could contribute by helping with coordination and administration tasks.
The lecture provided an excellent opportunity to learn more about the impact of Robotel Türkiye’s work and how to contribute to their efforts. With our support, they can continue to serve those in need and make a positive impact on their lives. Donations can be made by following this link: https://fonzip.com/robotel/online. Together, we can make a difference and ensure that everyone has access to the medical care they deserve.
Video of the online lecture “How to make a difference: Free 3D printed devices for earthquake victims“ given by Zeynep Karagöz (Robotel Türkiye), 20.3.2023
Zeynep Karagöz (Robotel Türkiye) graduated from MSÜ – Architecture and co-founded KOMA Architecture in 2001. With Robotel Türkiye, she started making 3D printed mechanical hands for children with hand deformation who do not have access to prosthetics. In 2017, Robotel became an NGO. Karagöz is currently the head of Robot El Association and she designs collaborative multidimensional & multidisciplinary projects. She also shares her expertise as a speaker, trainer & mentor. Defining herself as a PROMAKER she is addicted to civil society & social entrepreneurship.
Dr. Melike Şahinol (Orient-Institut Istanbul), Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mara Mills (NYU Center for Disability Studies), Prof. Dr. Robert Stock (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
The event is kindly sponsored by Orient-Institut Istanbul, NYU Center for Disability Studies and Humboldt University Berlin.
Şahinol, M. (2022), “3D printed children’s prostheses as enabling technology? The experience of children with upper limb body differences”, Journal of Enabling Technologies, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 204-218. https://doi.org/10.1108/JET-02-2022-0017
Bieling, T., Şahinol, M., Stock, R. and Wiechern, A. (2022), “Access and tinkering: designing assistive technologies as political practice–A discussion with Zeynep Karagöz, Thomas Miebach and Daniel Wessolek”, Journal of Enabling Technologies, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 231-242. https://doi.org/10.1108/JET-01-2022-0005
Şahinol, M. (2020). Enabling-Technologien zwischen Normalität und Enhancement: 3D-gedruckte Prothesen für Kinder von Maker*innen. In M. C. Bauer & L. Deinzer (Eds.), Bessere Menschen? Technische und ethische Fragen in der transhumanistischen Zukunft (pp. 159-182). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-61570-6_9