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High school students use 3D printer to make prosthetic hand for 7-year-old boy (4 photos)

Traditional prosthetics can cost thousands. College Heights Secondary School students made one for $25

It looks like a piece of Iron Man’s suit, red and gold and all angles.

“It’s cool,” said 7-year-old Jordan Singh as he checked out his new prosthetic hand Thursday at College Heights Secondary School.

Students at the school made the working device using a 3D printer and with the help of a motivated and passionate University of Guelph student named Jerry Ennett.

It will make things like catching a ball and riding a bike easier for the Kitchener youngster, but it will also help in some non-physical ways, said his mom.

“I just wanted something to help build his confidence and see what we can do with a prosthetic,” said Melissa Singh.

It is a first for her son, who was born with only a thumb on his left hand.

“He’s done pretty well without it. Because he has a thumb he’s able to pick up things pretty well,” she said.

Ennett, a fifth-year  biomedical engineering student, said the fact the working prosthetic hand looks like something out of Iron Man is completely intentional.

“It doesn’t have to look human because you’re not trying to hide the difference, you’re trying to embrace it,” he said.

“So it looks like a piece of cool equipment. This one looks like Iron Man. You’re showing it off instead of hiding it.”

For his second-year co-op program three years ago Ennett used a grant to buy a 3D printer.

With the help of e-NABLE, a volunteer social enterprise that designs prosthetics for free, he made a pink prosthetic for a 6-year-old Guelph girl.

Last year he went to India, helping establish a program to build prosthetics there through a 3D printer for people who couldn’t possibly have gotten one otherwise.

“If you want prosthetics to move, they can cost thousands of dollars,” Ennett said. “This one cost $25.”

The cost factor is even more relevant when dealing with children, because they outgrow them so quickly, Ennett said.

A teacher at College Heights heard about Ennett’s first project with the 6-year-old girl and reached out to him to partner with the school’s Special High Skills Major students.

“This is like a double whammy. Half of what I do is teach kids how to use 3D printing for tech, and in this case these kids actually made something for one of my other patients, so it’s perfect. A triangle of working together,” Ennett said.

For Grade 11 student Christiaunna McCormick, one of four students that worked on the project, it offered a chance to apply the theoretical to the practical.

“It took forever, but the outcome is so worth it. I think it’s a really great accomplishment to do something like this,” she said.

“It helps not only us further ourselves, but also for jordan. Now he has a hand.”