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10-year-old reaches out to other prosthetic users around the world by repurposing used artificial limbs

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A 10-year-old Winnipeg boy is collecting and repurposing used prosthetic limbs for people just like him.

Iahnijah Opaleke — who uses an artificial leg — says he was inspired to recycle the devices during a trip to Jamaica when he was five years old, before one of his surgeries.

“I saw a man, he had no legs and he was riding a skateboard to get around everywhere,” Iahnijah said.

“So I just said, ‘Why doesn‘t he have a prosthetic like me?’ I just had the idea.”

His mom, Tina, says Iahnijah offered the stranger his own artificial leg right there in the market.

“He probably doesn‘t remember because he was a little guy. But he was going to full-on take his prosthetic off and give it to him. And the guy was like, ‘You would do that for me?’ It was a very emotional moment,” she said.

“I realized … if an amputee would be willing to repurpose his own prosthetic to somebody else and donate it, I just thought, why don’t we ask the other amputees too?”

A different meaning for disability’s name

After returning from their trip, Iahnijah and his mom started a group to collect and distribute artificial limbs to others around the world. 

“We’re sending prosthetics to people who need them, who can’t get prosthetics where they are or it costs too much money,”  Iahnijah said.

They call the group PFFD: Prosthetics for Foreign Donation. That’s also the acronym for what Iahnijah has: proximal femoral focal deficiency.

The rare birth defect affects a person’s pelvis, hip and thighbone. It causes one leg to be significantly shorter than the other.

Tina and Iahnijah Opaleke have created a group called PFFD, which stands for Prosthetics for Foreign Donation. They’ve started collecting artificial limbs that can be used by people with disabilities in other countries. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Tina says an amputee will go through many prosthetics in their lifetime, but often don’t know what to do with the old ones when they need to be replaced or they grow out of them.

“Some people are really attached to their [prosthetic] limbs,” she said. “It’s a part of them.”

That was apparent when they received a donation from a woman in Toronto, whose father had died.

“Her father was a veteran. She donated his old [prosthetic] legs. She specifically wanted her father to live on. It was such a beautiful moment. She was giving her father’s love to Iahnijah.”

Along with the emotional attachment, each device costs thousands of dollars, so Tina says many people also can’t bear to throw them out.

“So you just keep it.”

Prosthetics can’t be reused in Canada

Tina says health regulations in Canada prevent people from using a recycled prosthetic. But the used limbs can make a huge difference for people in other parts of the world.

“A lot of people in some countries, if you have a disability, you beg,” she said. “There’s so much more you can do, and I think having your own independence, you can walk your own path.”

So far, they’ve collected dozens of used prosthetic arms and legs, special socks and other accessories, along with shoes for children with club feet.

“The first aspect has just been putting it out there in every rehabilitation centre, every medical facility that we visit, or that we’ve heard about, we tell people about us,” Tina said.

“Now, we’re deciding who to send it to. People get ahold of us through email or through Facebook and request. There was a gentleman who requested an arm prosthetic, so we sent one to Trinidad.”

The duo have collected boxes worth of used artificial limbs, and sent them to places like Tanzania and Trinidad. (Warren Kay/CBC)

She says some people who donate their old artificial limbs will check back in to see who received their arm or leg.

“They’re pretty excited just to know.”

Iahnijah says it’s a good feeling to know he can help another person in the world experience what it’s like to have a prosthetic.

“It just feels awesome. It’s making me happy every single day I put it on. It’s one of the best things I could ask for.”

A 10-year-old Winnipeg boy is collecting and repurposing used prosthetic limbs for people just like him. 2:10

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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