In 2013 Aaron Westbrook founded 'Alive With Five' - a blog that documented his experiences, struggles, and accomplishments of being born with one hand. At this time, for the first time in his life, Aaron was connected to a larger community of people with limb differences. This introduction to a community of people like himself was his first true realization that he wasn’t alone in navigating the world with a limb difference. His newfound community inspired Aaron to start "Alive With Five" and to be a present and active member in the community.
Through his connection with the limb-difference community, Aaron was inspired to explore his options in obtaining a prosthesis going into his freshman year of high school. While he never faced any tasks that he couldn’t do, seeing others in the community getting and wearing prosthetics piqued his curiosity. Aaron went to Shriners Hospital to get fitted with his first prosthetic arm in 2013. The experience was much different than what he expected. It was in that moment when he became aware of the disconnect in the process and technology of making a prosthesis. Aaron wanted to figure out, not only how to make the process more efficient and better for himself, but how he could do that for others in the community. Aaron did just that and in high school set out to make prosthetics accessible, affordable, and most importantly eco-friendly.
In the fall of 2014, Aaron began working with teachers and administration overseeing at the time the newly established M.I.T Fabrication Lab on New Albany-Plain Local Schools campus. He was one of the first students to utilize the equipment and complete an independent project. With the help of e-Nable, a global movement committed to 3-D printing prosthetic hands and arms for those in need, Aaron was able to utilize open-source designs to print his prosthesis. Aaron left the lab in February of 2015 wearing what would be his third and final 3-D printed prosthetic arm from the school's Fab Lab. By spring, with an overwhelming amount of support and a feature on the local news on his 16th birthday, Aaron raised enough money through a Kickstarter campaign to purchase a 3-D printer of his own.
As he began exploring the possibilities of 3-D printing and the research around 3-D printed prosthetics, Alive With Five began to form into something much more.
Aaron was invited to speak about his pursuits at TEDx New Albany in April of 2016. While preparing for his talk, Aaron realized that his blog, Alive With Five, was not only able to raise awareness of limb differences but able to provide a service to those with limb differences. This prompted a shift from a blog, to a company and he ultimately evolved the name to 'Form5 Prosthetics'. The number 5 five stemmed from the blog name, which was a reference to 5 fingers. Entering his senior year Aaron had big aspirations for his senior seminar project - a New Albany High School graduation requirement in which students must document 80 hours of work whether that be through an internship, creating a product, or personal improvement. Through his three-phase project, Aaron was able to collect plastic waste, recycle it into 3-D printer filament (material), and fabricate a customized panda arm prosthetic for a 7-year-old girl born without her hand.
After graduating in 2017 Aaron 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 launch Form5 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Form5's mission is to provide eco-friendly prosthetics for the poor, distressed or underprivileged with congenital and other limb differences by using 3D printing and closed-loop recycling to innovate, create, and reform the future. In its first year as an organization, Form5 provided five more recipients with prosthetic devices, held fundraising events, and has begun mapping out its plans to be a zero-waste organization by 2020. With Aaron’s vision as CEO of the non-profit, he continues to write the narrative of Form5 and empower those like himself with missing limbs. Alongside Aaron is his Board of Directors: Rourke Adams - Technology Director & Board President, Cara Blakeslee - Secretary, and Connor Emrich - Treasure. To learn more about our team click here.