WT engineering students make difference with 3D printer

Published: Jan. 17, 2014 at 11:31 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2014 at 12:25 AM CST
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Canyon, TX - West Texas A&M engineering students are making a difference with the help of a 3D printer.

In the fall, four WT engineering students designed and constructed a mechanical-hand prosthetic with some fishing line, a bungee cord and a 3D printer.

Engineering professor Emily Hunt challenged her students to create the prosthetic for children with hand differences. "The idea for this was already out there," said Hunt. "Some researchers in South Africa had come up with the idea that you could take this motion and create a hand that would open and close. So the students' task was really a redesign about how we can take the idea of what's already out there and make it work for different kids with different hands and really generalize it so it can be adapted."

The project was especially important to Hunt because the students used her 10-year-old daughter Aly as a model. Aly was born with a hand difference.

"It was really humbling because we got to tie engineering in with a human-centered project," said WT engineering graduate Alex Parra. "It's something that we never really do."

Aly has had helper-hands in the past, but none allowed her to open and close her fist like the one engineered at WT.

The engineering students are working with doctors at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, which specializes in hand differences. Their goal is to make the hand easily accessible to children who need it. Using the 3D printer makes the finished product very affordable to mass-produce, so the hospital can purchase the mechanical hand for just 15 dollars.

Madison Alewel - NewsChannel 10