Science & Technology

Bolivian robotics prodigy puts focus on helping humanity

By Gina Baldivieso

Achocalla, Bolivia, Dec 18 (EFE).- Six-year-old Roly Mamani didn’t know that his success in building a remotely operated toy heralded a brilliant career in robotics or that he would one day decide to devote his expertise to making prostheses free-of-charge for people who otherwise could not afford them.

“This entire passion began when I was a child. I liked to create. It has not always been with technology, but creativity has always been a way of life for me,” he tells Efe at his studio in Achocalla, near La Paz.

Sharing the space with the array of 3D printers are a life-size figure of Marvel’s Ironman and display cases with examples of Mamani’s work.

Now 32, he built the first of what would be many robots during his first semester at the university where he went on to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering.

As much as he loved the work, Mamani reached a point when he questioned the value of the things he was creating and that reflection led him three years ago to found Robotics Creators Bolivia.

He tells Efe that he realized his knowledge could “serve society” through the “development of health technologies, which are robotic prostheses and orthetics.”

Robotics Creators is a business, not a charity, but to date, Mamani has donated nearly 200 prostheses to people without the ability to pay.

Roly’s brother, physio-therapist Juan Carlos, is responsible for evaluating a patient’s condition and needs, as well as for overseeing rehabilitation once the prosthesis is fitted.

While the time for each job varies depending on size and complexity, the engineer says that in most cases, the process from evaluation to fitting can be completed in around a week.

With proper care and maintenance, a prosthesis can last “two years easily” before requiring an update, Roly says.

Looking back on a childhood he describes as “not easy,” the engineer says that his parents set a good example by demonstrating empathy for others.

“I believe that necessity and hard times create strong people,” Roly Mamani says as he explains the motivation for donating prostheses.

And when “good-hearted people” came to him seeking prosthetic devices for injured pets, he couldn’t turn them away.

“It’s another world, certainly, but we have the technology,” Roly says of his work in that area, which has included wheelchairs for cats and prosthetic limbs for dogs.

His immediate goal is a bigger facility for Robotics Creators Bolivia, but in the longer term, Roly hopes to establish a comprehensive bionic rehabilitation center that can supply prostheses for both upper and lower body – the present operation is limited to upper body – and even prosthetic exoskeletons for people suffering from paralysis.

“For me, technology is the closest thing to magic because with knowledge, with all of this, we can do many things and having these kinds of knowledge, tools, makes me feel good,” Roly Mamani says.


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