Aug 18, 2015 | By Alec

3D printed prosthetics have been steadily improving over the past few years, but most wearers eventually accept that these cheap alternatives are simply not up to the standard of a carbon fiber medical creation. However, even we are often amazed at the progress that is being made and the new abilities that are being developed. Just look at the prosthetic worn by five-year-old Hailey Dawson. Hailey recently received a 3D printed prosthetic from a team of students, and showed off its ability at the baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics last night by throwing the ceremonial first pitch at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

The five-year-old Hailey comes from Las Vegas, and was born with a rare genetic disorder called the Poland Syndrome. This anomaly is rare, affecting as few as one in 10,000-100,000 people. This disorder results in the underdevelopment or even the absence of the chest muscle on one side of the body, as well as the deformation of the fingers of the hand on that same side. In Hailey’s case, her right hand is so deformed she can’t grab anything at all. As her mom Yong Dawson revealed, ‘She was born with a tiny pinkie and thumb and little nubbins for middle fingers.’

According to her parents, Hailey has just been a regular little girl despite all that. ‘There hasn't been anything, really, that she hasn't been able to do,’ mom told reporters. ‘She's just your typical five-year-old, you know - playing in the dirt, having fun, riding her bike.’ However, unfortunately other kids were not always as understanding as they could have been. ‘You would go out to dinner and you would see kids tapping their parents and pointing towards her. She doesn't know any differently, because she's had that from her birth so she's adapting. But it's something I had to get over,’ dad Gregory added.

Now of course prosthetics are very expensive, especially when growing children need a new one every year or so. Hailey’s mother therefore turned to the University of Nevada, where she and professor Brendan O’Toole found a team of students more than willing to work on a 3D printed prosthetic. ‘This is a dream project,’ the professor told reporters. ‘You get to help somebody, you've got a little bit of robotics. It's a great design project.’

And at the game, the five-year-old delighted the crowd by throwing the first pitch with the Flexy Hand they developed. This 3D printed robotic hand features the colors of Dawson’s favorite team, the Orioles. As you can see in the clip below, her favorite player Manny Machado was able to catch her pitch. The grabbing mechanism in this prosthetic is in the wrists. The fingers grab when her wrist is down, and open up when her wrist moves upward.


 

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