Olga Saadi – Class of 2012

Olga Saadi, Class of 2012 at The British School, Rio de Janeiro, had the amazing initiative of founding “Projeto Mão Dada”. The project creates 3D printer prosthetics for children, making them more accessible for children in need. Gabriela de Lamare, TBSRJ Class of 2018, interviewed her for the website.

1 – Where and what did you study after you left TBSRJ?

Production Engineering at PUC-Rio, Brazil.


2 – Introduce “Projeto Mão Dada” and explain what made you want to start a project like this.

“Projeto Mão Dada” is about bridging the gap between 3D printed prosthetics and traditional devices. On one hand, we have prosthetics that are terribly expensive and have little function and on the other, we have 3D printing enabling the production of inexpensive, functional yet fragile prosthesis. Despite the incredible job that 3D printed prosthetics are doing in giving hope to thousands of children, we believe it is time to take the next step. Our aim is to build devices that require minimal modifications so that the user him/herself can perform and maintain it at home. 3D printing was our starting point, but a lot of research is not necessary to build a high-quality low-cost device that is a useful tool in our users’ daily lives.

This project started out as volunteering – uniting my builder curiosity to a real need – but became “Projeto Mão Dada” when I realized the potential and relevance of such activity.


3 – Have you always been involved in projects like “Mão Dada”? Did you take part in any non-profitable projects like this during your time at TBSRJ?

Yes, the school culture of CAS is invaluable and was one of the reasons why I felt missed taking part on socially relevant projects after graduating from school.


4 – What were some of the biggest challenges you faced with this project?

Finding relevant partners was one of the first challenges I encountered. It was a completely new world for me, from the 3D printing perspective as well as the medical perspective. I met with some of the top professionals in both fields absorbing every information they dispensed.

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to find some amazing people to work with. Still, a lot of studying is going on. Other challenges included the Brazilian cumbersome bureaucracy, especially when it comes down to money and the lack of funding available for research initiatives – especially free-lance.

Innovating is challenging in itself – trying to break down what you know to build something new can be daunting especially as an independent organization lead by young professionals. In “Mão Dada” we break down every step into achievable tasks that take us closer to our ultimate goal. Still, every step is a new trial, but that is part of the fun, I guess.

5 – What is the next step of “Projeto Mão Dada” now that you have reached the target of financial aid?

The next step is a deep dive into research – new materials, simpler methods of production – and putting together an organized timetable to meet with these kids or a regular basis enabling the rapid prototyping rhythm we need. Reinventing prosthetics is very exciting, but we need to take it one-step at a time to make sure every detail is looked into.


6 – What is the most rewarding thing in working with a project like “Mão Dada”?

Working with social ventures is essentially rewarding. No wonder we hear so much about “making an impact”. Getting to see your efforts applied to real life and being able to change someone else’s life is amazing. In “Mão Dada” specifically, the most rewarding bit is the psychological transformation the children go through. From shy and introspective to playful and smiling kids, even when they are not using their devices. This transformation is the most rewarding part – knowing that prosthetics are simply a tool for something a lot bigger that is self-esteem and freedom from stigmas.


7 – What do you think was the most important thing you learned as a person at the The British School?

I believe that The British School shapes its students into becoming questioning individuals, with multiple interests and with passion to pursue their goals. The most important thing I learned at the school is the multidisciplinary within every person and that we should harvest this way of thinking rather than suppressing it and fitting inside a single mould.