The Ohio State University at Newark


Ohio State Newark Student’s Nonprofit Brings New Meaning to Giving a Helping Hand

December 20, 2018

As someone who has lived much of his life with only one hand Aaron Westbrook knows how to help the recipients of his nonprofit, Form5 Prosthetics Inc. He learned from personal experience what people go through to receive a prosthetic limb, prompting him to research more cost-effective ways to make them.

“When I went through the standard process of getting a prosthesis I realized how outdated it was,” he said. “I wanted to integrate today’s technology to make environmentally friendly, 3-D prosthetics from recycled materials.”

With the advent of 3-D printing technology, Form5 Prosthetics Inc. can provide what once was considered a luxury item for those with limb differences. Prosthetics that were too expensive for most people to afford can now be custom-made for significantly less money and in much less time.

At the age of 15, he began using the 3-D printer in New Albany High School’s MIT fabrication laboratory and made his own prosthetic arm to replace a $40,000 one that he felt was uncomfortable and impractical considering the hand on it was immobile. The cost of his 3-D printed limb was around $40 in plastic materials.

During his sophomore and junior years of high school, Westbrook ran a successful Kickstarter campaign that enabled him to purchase his own 3-D printer and produced his first prosthetic limb for someone else with a limb difference.

“I just want to help people. For my entire life, I’ve always wanted to help others,” he said. “As the things I produce change the lives of the people I work with, they are changing me. The experiences are really transformative for everyone involved.”

He took a gap year, a period of time typically an academic year taken by a student as a break between high school and college, to make Form5 Prosthetics Inc. a full-fledged nonprofit of which he is the CEO. He also produced five prosthetic limbs for recipients of the company. Several prosthetics he has produced have been activity-specific, enabling central Ohio children to play the cello or go fishing which standard prosthetics might not have made possible.

“It can be hard for me to wrap my mind around what I’ve accomplished. I sometimes have to pinch myself and say ‘Aaron, you’re the CEO of a nonprofit’,” Westbrook said.

Westbrook spends his free time speaking at events throughout the New Albany school district, collecting #5 recyclables for production of the 3-D printed limbs or promoting Form5 at events like the Arnold Classic. A representative from Owens Corning stopped to talk with Westbrook about his work while he attended the Arnold Classic. Owens Corning invited him to see their facilities and equipment, and they discussed how to combine their efforts. This connection became very valuable when Westbrook set out to create a prosthetic leg that was given to 13-year-old bone cancer survivor Jillian Ripley in October. He was able to utilize Owens Corning’s equipment, along with working with engineers, to produce a prosthesis that enables Ripley to get back to her favorite sport of bowling.

“Doing a prosthetic leg after only five years of doing this was unexpected. I didn’t expect that to happen until about 10 or 12 years of doing Form5, but when the opportunity arose I had to seize it,” he said. “Using a material developed by Owens Corning called XSTRAND, a high performance composite filament print product with superior strength, dynamic temperature resistance, and extreme durability, we were able to produce the prosthesis for Jillian.”

He began his educational journey at The Ohio State University at Newark in August as a business administration major. After his gap year, he knew he would need to ease back into the rigor of school with the extra support that a small campus provides such as one-on-one time with professors, tutors, librarians and others.

“I like having that connection with professors so that they not only understand how I’m comprehending the material but also who I am as a person,” Westbrook said. “That’s what’s unique about this experience at Ohio State Newark. I can have my individualized experience.”

The young entrepreneur has been able to juggle classes, studying and finals all while opening a lab space, hosting a Hand-A-Thon to teach Girl Scout Troop 560 how to put together prosthesis and make them movable and various other fundraising or speaking events to spread awareness of Form5. He intends to graduate in 2022 and continue to make Form5 a successful nonprofit helping those with limb differences get the prosthesis they need to live a full, active lifestyle at a reasonable price using the most up-to-date technology and recycled materials.

For more information about Form5 Prosthetics Inc. visit form5prostheticsinc.org.

The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that is inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.