Gies iMBA Student Founds Nonprofit that Transforms Trashed Ocean Plastic into Prosthetics

Turning reclaimed ocean plastic into prosthetics seemed like a perfect idea for Chris Moriarity.

Enrolling into University of Illinois’ online iMBA program (iMBA) in Gies College of Business has helped him streamline the nonprofit he founded on Earth Day—The Million Waves Project—that does exactly that.Million Wave Project

“It’s serendipity,” said Moriarity, an Anacortes, Washington resident who started the iMBA program in January—a few months before launching The Million Waves Project on April 18. “Being part of the iMBA program has helped change how I run The Million Waves Project and how I present it to others.”

Moriarity has never stepped foot onto the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, but he feels part of the community through the iMBA’s Coursera and live video classes, especially microeconomics. He said the class helped him develop presentation graphics, predictive data for when he should purchase more technology, and current production capacity.

“Now I know all the probabilities and production frontiers,” said Moriarity, who turns 38 on July 26 and hopes to be finished with his iMBA by December 2019. “I’ve been helping other people run their businesses for a long, long time, but I learned more about stats through this iMBA program than in my entire previous careers. Now I can prove all the things I was saying.”

Moriarity conceived the idea of The Million Waves overnight in April, and two weeks later, it debuted. The project takes reclaimed ocean plastic and used it to 3D-print custom prosthetic limbs for children. The project currently has produced 16 limbs across the world, the first prosthetic hand will be given to a 9-year-old Seattle girl on July 17.

Moriarity, his wife Laura, and others literally cut up plastic bottles by hand before inserting them into a paper shredder before a 3D printer creates the prosthetic limbs. Moriarity, who graduated from Pella (Iowa) High School and with a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Northern Iowa, said the next steps include the purchasing of a commercial-sized shredder that will allow a dramatic increase in production capacity. Moriarity said about 40,000 children worldwide could use prosthetics created from 3D printers.Million Waves Project recipient

Moriarity, who has three children age 9 years to 8 months, works about 100 hours a week over several jobs and travels about 100,000 miles a year. He’ll be making presentations for The Million Waves Project in Orlando on September 14, Detroit on September 21, and Chicago on September 28.

He had been searching for an iMBA program for “years and years and years,” and said he chose Gies’ because of its high ranking and because it conformed to his Midwest roots.

“I feel like Illinois was a choice that I made 100 percent myself, and I picked the school because that’s what I wanted,” Moriarity said. “It was a perfect fit for my lifestyle and something that was in line with my cultures and my beliefs. . . . I’ve always been confused by people that treat their education like a punishment. How lucky am I that I’m able to get a new skill set while I’m doing all these other things that I want to do.”