Jun 10, 2016 | By Tess

As a child, music class was always one of my favorite subjects; a respite from math or grammar, it was a class to enjoy and make some tunes. For sixth and seventh graders Cassandra Stewart and Andrew Mindy, however, who each have a disability, music class posed some challenges and they often found themselves sitting at the back of the classroom, unable to take up certain instruments. That is, until now. Thanks to a new 3D printer at a local high school and the work of a dedicated high school student, Nicholas Brown, Stewart and Mindy now have a 3D printed prosthesis specially designed for playing instruments.

Brown, a brilliant 15-year-old student from Pine Grove Area High School in Pennsylvania, was approached by his tech teacher Brad Fessler, who thought he would be up to the task of designing and 3D printing a prosthetic hand. Fessler for his part, had been approached by Stewart and Mindy’s music teacher from the local middle school, who had heard of the potentials of 3D printing, and wanted her students to benefit and enjoy her class as much as the other students.

The design process for the instrument playing prosthetic, which included extensive 3D modeling, printing prototypes, testing the prototypes and going back to the drawing board to make improvements and adjustments, took Brown and Fessler a whole academic year to complete. According to Brown, the most difficult part was actually coming up with a concept. He says, “I had to get the idea of what to make. But the rest of it was just editing the idea and finding out what works.”

The end result is an adjustable sleeve that can fit onto either of the students’ arms and which can itself be fitted with different attachments, depending on what instrument you are playing. That is, the versatile prosthetic has an attachment for playing the drums, one for playing guitar, and one for playing the trumpet. Additionally, as Fessler explains, the prosthetic did not have to be custom fitted because of the interchangeability of the design. He says, “Everything is designed to be interchangeable. They put the prosthesis on, and they can use their other hand to change out the attachments or adjust the fit. It was designed so they can do it themselves.”

The specially designed prosthesis was presented to Stewart and Mindy earlier this week to many smiles and much excitement. Brown, who created the prosthesis, said, “I was so glad they were able to use them and that it was actually working. They were really happy.” While the 3D printed instrument playing prosthetic was finished in time for the end of the school year, Stewart and Mindy are looking forward to using it next year, and even practicing with it over the summer to hone their musical abilities.

As for Nicholas Brown, the innovative 15-year-old who was behind the prosthetic design, we can’t wait to see what he makes next, as he is clearly a great maker in the making.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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