One night in July 2013, Mick Ebeling read a news story about a boy named Daniel in South Sudan who had lost both is arms in a bomb attack, and decided to do something about it. The CEO of Not Impossible Labs and The Ebeling Group wanted to help.
Now, Ebeling is no stranger to ambitious tech projects involving a physical disability. He helped create The Eyewriter, a device that helps people with paralysis to communicate and make art just by using their eyes. This time, it was about giving a young boy a world away his arms back.
He assembled a team that included experts in prosthetics, physiology and physical therapy and, most importantly, Richard van As–the guy who invented the Robohand. “It was a stacked deck,” says Ebeling. “My process is to gather as many smart and brilliant people around you to give you the greatest chance to succeed.”
An American doctor in South Sudan, Dr. Tom Catena, helped them set up the world’s first 3-D printing prosthetic lab and training facility. Four months after Ebeling read that article, Daniel was feeding himself for the first time in two years, thanks to a 3-D printed prosthetic.
Ebeling credits his work in advertising and production for getting the project off the ground. “It was definitely made possible by coming at it with an advertising mentality,” he says. “Just the attitude of, ‘Okay we have to do this, let’s go!’ No mucking about, just get it done. As a producer, we’re in the position to build incredible teams to accomplish something and that’s how I see my role in these projects.”
Intel joined precision manufacturing firm Precipart as a financial and technology sponsor for Project Daniel, contributed funds to get the team to South Sudan and provided tools like laptops to get the work done. Ebeling says the brand was a natural fit. “There’s a tremendous amount of integrity and authenticity to what we do and how we do it,” he says in an interactive Q&A. “When you look at Intel as a partner, they are behind the scene driving technology forward. I went to Intel because they had the technology to get this done.”
The project is now the subject of Intel’s latest Look Inside short film series chronicling people who have used technology to overcome obstacles, like adventurer Erik Weihenmayer, who climbed Mt. Everest and all Seven Summits despite having a disability, and how 15-year-old Jack Andraka discovered an early detection method for pancreatic cancer.
The Ebeling film, by agency Venables Bell & Partners and Oscar-nominated director Lucy Walker follows his journey to Sudan to meet Daniel and give the community tools to help others affected by the war.
“The Project Daniel story is a rich one and we wanted to bring people into the narrative through as many social channels as possible,” says Venables Bell & Partners executive creative director Will McGinness. “By creating different doorways into the story we want to allow people to get to know Mick and hopefully inspire involvement in the project.”
Ebeling has hosted a Reddit AMA about Project Daniel and Intel is using the hashtag #MyDaniel to encourage people to submit videos or tweets suggesting a new way to apply technology to a problem. The 20-minute interactive Q&A video with Ebeling touches on why he got involved and what he hopes people will learn from his experience.
“It’s really about the concept of help one, help many,” says Ebeling. “If I had read the article and thought, ‘I gotta go help the amputees!’ There’s really no place to start. It’s like Bill Gates trying to fight malaria or Bono fighting poverty. But by breaking it down to one individual–I want to help Daniel–then it becomes an achievable end goal, one person helping one person. That’s what we’re focusing on at Not Impossible Labs, looking at problems or needs that can be solved through hacking, modding, programming, whatever, so it helps one person first but has the potential to help many others.”