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Albert Manero

International Collaboration and the Intersection of Creativity, Inclusion and Empathy

Albert Manero, PhD
Engineer and Technology Executive
2014 Fulbright U.S. Student to Germany

Albert Manero holding up a prosthetic arm in one hand while he raises his other hand to compare

Albert Manero was a graduate student at the University of Central Florida (UCF) when he heard a radio interview that would change his life. It was a discussion with Ivan Owen, who was talking about his work developing 3D-printed mechanical hands and about the prohibitive cost of prosthetics, especially for children who are still growing. When a prosthetic limb costs upward of $40,000, it’s not feasible for many families to buy them at the rate kids might need new ones. “After hearing that radio interview, it was hard not to be moved,” Manero explained to the Orlando Economic Partnership. “A group of classmates and I quickly got together to brainstorm ways we could support the growing efforts and add our own spin on creating a similar tool of empowerment and, from there, we never really looked back.”

Eight years later, Manero holds a bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD from the University of Central Florida College of Engineering and Computer Sciences and completed a Fulbright Student award to Germany in 2014, as well as a graduate fellowship from the National Academy of Engineering in 2017. He is also the President, CEO, and co-founder of Limbitless Solutions, a non-profit organization that creates and donates bionic arms to children with limb differences. Manero’s goal is not just to make prosthetics affordable, although Limbitless does provide the arms at no cost to families, but also to provide kids with a way to express themselves, allowing each recipient to tailor the look of their prosthetic limb through customizable design and color selections. When asked about Manero’s impact on children and bionics, the German-American Fulbright Commission staff expressed that “his visionary work as co-founder and Executive Director of Limbitless Solutions to develop innovative bionic solutions for children in need is a marvellous example of the impact of the Fulbright Program in society.”

Manero’s original goal was to be an aerospace engineer, and, after obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at the University of Central Florida, he participated in his first international experience at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Köln as part of a 10-week exchange program. That collaboration produced cutting-edge research for jet engine blade protective coatings. Manero returned to the United States with a newly expanded worldview and pursued his master’s degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. After completing his degree in 2014, Manero was awarded a Fulbright to Germany, returning to the DLR only a few days after he’d produced his first bionic arm as part of a summer project.

Manero’s Fulbright research built on what he had learned through his first exchange experience and is a prime example of the enduring impact of a Fulbright grant. “The experience allowed me to learn new perspectives for globally minded research. The project extended past my time in Germany, with continued collaboration throughout my PhD program,” Manero wrote. “My PhD advisor, Dr. Seetha Raghavan, developed the collaboration and has continued it with research students conducting research in Germany each summer as part of a now NSF [National Science Foundation]- funded program. I’m grateful to see more research students have that transformative experience.”

Manero’s time as a Fulbrighter also provided him incredible opportunities for personal growth and new friendships and perspectives. He notes that the time he spent in Germany “led me to be interested in the role of science policy and engineering education, which encouraged me to apply for a postdoctoral fellowship with the National Academy of Engineering. Those experiences have been key points that I have taken into my professional career.”

Manero has remained engaged with the Fulbright program, writing a Fulbright Student Program blog post in 2015, in which he highlighted the essential nature of global collaboration. “In the laboratory, my research has never been more effective, as I embrace the benefits and challenges of global research. Our research team is developing new testing methods and experiments, to be put to use this summer at the synchrotron facility. My German colleagues have shared both their experience and their problem-solving methodology with me, helping me develop in many ways. It has been a privilege to learn their history and culture, and to share in it together. For STEM students considering applying for a Fulbright grant, such an international research experience is essential for the interconnected future.”

This global mindset is evident in the way Manero approaches his work at Limbitless. “When you find that intersection of creativity, inclusion and empathy, it will resonate with others in whatever field you’re in,” Manero advised in an interview with GrowFL, an organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of second-stage companies in Florida: “It’s very fulfilling to work together and to bring diverse perspectives together to make tomorrow brighter.”