By Cindy Ramirez / El Paso Times
Native El Pasoan Roger Gonzalez, founder of LIMBS International, has been nominated as one of six finalists for the Global Humanitarian Engineer of the Year award.
Gonzalez was nominated for his work with LIMBS International, a nonprofit organization he founded in 2004 that develops durable, low-cost prosthetics. One of its innovations is the LIMBS Knee, the only modular prosthetic knee in the world that meets all international standards and can be made using simple tools for less than $100. The knee has been used in 22 developing countries and has been fitted onto more than 1,000 amputees.
The award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers will be presented today at the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference in Silicon Valley, Calif.
The award recognizes engineers’ contribution toward improving the lives of those less fortunate.
“It’s an honor to be nominated,” said Gonzalez, a graduate of Austin High School and UTEP. “It really encompasses the work done, over many years, by students, staff and fellow faculty colleagues. I see this not just as an award for myself, but for everyone involved.”
Gonzalez is a professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in 1986. He also serves as director of the UTEP Leadership Engineering Program.
Under a research partnership with UTEP, the organization develops its innovations in lab space at the university’s Biomedical Engineering and Bioinformatics Building.
Before coming to UTEP, Gonzalez served as associate dean of engineering and associate vice president for research at Le Tourneau University in Longview, Texas. He has worked with students in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and Latin and South America on various international engineering research and humanitarian projects.
Gonzalez said he had long been sensitive to the needs of the handicapped, especially those in poor communities who could not pay for health care or equipment to regain mobility.
“Being an amputee is a very visual handicap,” Gonzalez said. “And it’s because of the strong visual component that I was really moved to do something more with that very mechanical background I have.”
Gonzalez received his master’s and doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin and conducted his post-doctoral studies at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
Gonzalez worked for General Electric as an engineering project manager, but said he felt the need to do something more.
“I realized I really wanted to do something bigger than just work,” he said. “I really wanted to give back to young people again.”
Gonzalez said he hopes engineering students today take their theoretical concepts and understand what they do in a laboratory can have profound effects on the world.
“From the design of a prosthetic to the design of an iPhone,” he said, “engineering impacts what people do and how people live every day.”
Cindy Ramirez may be reached at 546-6151.