Rakesh Reddy, Class of 2020, was recognized by the popular film and media conference South by Southwest (SXSW) for his work with his nonprofit, Born2Walk. The nonprofit was named a 2019 SXSW Community Service Award nominee, an honor given to individuals and organizations for their outstanding commitment to community service. Rakesh will accept the award at the SXSW Conference held in Austin, Texas this coming March.

In addition to being named an honoree, Born2Walk will receive a grant to help continue its work providing prosthetic limbs to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

Rakesh founded Born2Walk less than two years ago after recognizing a need for low-cost prostheses for people with below-knee amputations (BKA). Using a computer and a 3D printer, Rakesh and local physician Dr. Vijay Hingorani design and print BKA limbs for patients without having to fit them in person. Unlike traditional prostheses, which can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $40,000, limbs printed by Born2Walk cost just $40.

Rakesh is currently working with a clinic in India to provide these low-cost limbs to patients in need. The patients provide measurements to Rakesh and his team, who then use those measurements to design and print limbs that fit the individual. According to Rakesh, no other organization is printing these kinds of limbs without being there to take measurements in person. This means Born2Walk has the potential to reach more patients more efficiently and at a lower cost than traditional prosthetic device makers.

By the end of December, Born2Walk will have provided eight patients with BKA limbs and is continuing to improve on its design to make the best limbs it can. Rakesh met with doctors and patients at the Indian clinic this past summer to see what kinds of resources they have available and to figure out the best way possible to help the amputees.

He will also use the SXSW grant to further the Born2Walk mission by purchasing new software that will create a design template for the limbs. This will make it easier to create individualized limbs more quickly, allowing Rakesh to simply input different measurements in a master template instead of designing a limb from scratch every time.

Rakesh hopes to continue his nonprofit work into college, following in the footsteps of his sister, Meghana Reddy ’17, who started a similar nonprofit printing prosthetic hands. The work might be challenging at times but it is always rewarding.

Not too long ago, Rakesh watched the video of the first patient to receive a Born2Walk limb walking with their prosthesis for the first time.  

“It’s really nice to see people who didn’t think they would walk again, walk again,” says Rakesh.

(Photos courtesy of Born2Walk.org)