Aaron Westbrook postponed college for a year to launch Form5 Prosthetics Inc., a nonprofit that provides people with limb loss an opportunity to make their own eco-friendly prosthetics. Westbook’s own experiences inspired the organization.
Born without a right hand, the 20-year-old Reynoldsburg resident got his first artificial limb as a freshman in high school. “I went the traditional route and went to a clinic,” said Westbrook, who started Form5 right after graduating from New Albany High School in 2017. “I realized how outdated and disconnected the industry was to people with limb loss. I knew there needed to be a solution that was either, I need to find that or create that.”
Now attending Ohio State University as a business marketing major, Westbrook hopes to be working full-time at Form5 by the time he graduates. “He’s taken a problem he himself experiences on a daily basis, operationalized a solution to that problem and extended the solution to the general public as a nonprofit entity,” said Derek DeHart, who nominated Westbrook for this award. DeHart, an Everyday Heroes semifinalist last year, met Westbrook about a year ago after they were introduced by Emily Savors at the Columbus Foundation.
As a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, Westbrook created a 3D-printed prosthetic device for his arm as part of an independent project in the MIT Fabrication Lab on the New Albany-Plain Local Schools campus.
“I pretty much, the moment after making my arm, knew I wanted to provide that to other people,” he said. “Therefore, we started the organization that we could provide that same opportunity to those like myself.”
Westbrook said community member Rourke Adams had experience with another nonprofit, Nellie’s Champions for Kids, and helped him launch Form5 in the summer of 2017. Adams is the technology director and board president of Form5. Other members of the board of directors include Cara Blakeslee, secretary, and Connor Emrich, treasurer.
Seven people have received prosthetics through Form5, a name that evolved from Alive With Five, a blog Westbrook founded in 2013 to document his experiences, struggles and accomplishments as someone who was born with one hand.
He said the number 5 stemmed from the blog name, a reference to five fingers.
Westbrook said Form5 is a recipient-based organization that uses eco-friendly materials.
“We recycle plastic from Columbus through plastic drives,” he explained. “We make all devices out of recycled plastic.”
He said Form5 focuses on task-specific devices like those for playing a musical instrument or riding a bicycle.
Starting this year, Westbrook said, Form5 will be shifting the way it works with recipients through workshops. The organization is planning its inaugural event, CO-FAB, for Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 8-11 at the Form5 office, 735 Cross Pointe Road, Suite C, in Columbus. During that workshop, five individuals with limb loss will be paired with college interns in fields such as biomedicine, design and engineering.
“[Participants] will be teamed with our leading sponsors and engineer personnel to create their own prosthetic,” Westbrook said. “Really, our vision for the organization going forward is not just providing prosthetics for those with limb loss, but providing those with limb loss the opportunity to create their own prosthetic. I think that’s really the experience that empowered me to do all of this. I think that’s what we want to provide to those with limb loss through the organization.”
Westbrook said it’s an indescribable experience to give something back to someone or maybe give them something they never even had.
“I think, for me, what makes me a hero in doing all of this is the fact that I get to be the person I needed when I was growing up,” he said.