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ThinkRevolutionist: The Helping Hand Project

A New Design for a New Hope
January 27, 2017

If a new bicycle or video game system can elicit shouts of joy on Christmas morning, imagine the excitement and hope expressed by Amy, a girl in Texas who received a new prosthetic arm.

As an early Christmas gift in December 2016, The Helping Hand Project gave Amy the first 3-D printed arm it ever created. Now she can more easily pour herself a glass of water – then put that glass in the sink when she’s finished. She can also do a better job of picking up a book, or playing the guitar, or hanging ornaments on the tree. In short, she can do many more things with fewer struggles than she could ever do before.

Specializing in 3D printed prosthetic hands, The HHP borrowed a design from Team UnLimbited, another creator of prosthetic devices, to produce this first arm. As Amy offers feedback on how her new arm works, The HHP Team will provide her improved versions until they are able to home in on the ideal design.

Founded on the campus of the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, The HHP has expanded throughout the state. Amy’s arm was printed at the Makerspace studio at UNC-Charlotte (UNCC). The future focus of the UNCC chapter will be producing arms.

Additional chapters of The HHP thrive at North Carolina State University (focused on custom design, including an electromechanical design) and Durham Technical Community College.

Delivering Amy’s new prosthetic arm in time for the holidays capped a fulfilling 2016. Earlier that fall, recipients of prosthetic devices traveled from all over the country with their parents to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus to meet The HHP Team. The children celebrated their new abilities and played with fellow participants. Some even received brand new prosthetic devices that had been created especially for them.

Future meet-ups are already in the works – for all the children like Amy who are getting a chance to fulfill their potential.