Blog

Eagle Project Uses 3D Printer to Create Prosthetic Hands

Scout Zach M. builds a prosthetic hand for his Eagle Scout service project. (Photo credit: Diane McCleery)
Scout Zach M. builds a prosthetic hand for his Eagle Scout service project. (Photo credit: Diane McCleery)

When the time came for Zach M. of the Mobile Area Council to choose his Eagle project, it didn’t take long to decide on a cause to champion: he wanted to use his talents in technology to help others.

With a 3D printer and the help from dozens of volunteers, Zach set out on a mission to produce prosthetic hands for children in need. He was able to donate the hands through the eNABLE organization, who helped him with design and distribution.

“I just like helping people and I like the mechanics behind it,” Zach shared with WKRG News. “I’m sort of like an engineer by heart and I love helping people and it just fits both parts of my personality.”

The Scout’s inspiration for this project actually began years earlier at Vanderbilt University. Zach, then 12, was visiting his brother at the university when he was introduced to a friend. Zach was captivated by the friend’s job– designing prosthetic hands at Vanderbilt’s Center for Mechatronic Intelligence.

“I was fascinated with how different they actually were from what you see in the movies,” Zach explained. “From that day I have been fascinated with prosthetics.”

Zach’s interest in prosthetic hands continued through his involvement with the robotics team at his school. He even worked on the robots’ “claws,” trying to make them function like human hands.

For about a year, Zach diligently planned the project, printed and assembled test hands, organized assembly volunteers, and even produced an instructional video and training manual for the hands. During this time, it became apparent that he wasn’t only impacting those in need of hands—he was also inspiring his community to help others.

The Scout's inspiration for the project came from an encounter with prostheses design at Vanderbilt University. (Photo Credit: Diane McCleery)
The Scout’s inspiration for the project came from an encounter with prostheses design at Vanderbilt University. (Photo Credit: Diane McCleery)

More than 100 volunteers, including students from Zach’s school, robotics team members, fellow Scouts, and others from the Mobile community attended the project’s assembly day and together, built 24 prosthetic hands.

The volunteers had some incredible encouragement from a ten-year-old recipient of one of the prosthetic hands. The young boy and his family shared how transformative the prosthetics are for children who are born without a functioning hand.  Zach said the boy even showed everyone some of the new things he could do, thanks to his new custom prosthesis.

“He demonstrated how he used it to throw a ball, pick up a glass and open a door. All things he was unable to do with that arm prior to getting his 3D hand.”

The material cost for these life-changing prostheses was a mere $50.00 per hand. The Scout simply used an open-sourced code to print the parts from a durable plastic filament and assembled the hands using fishing line, elastic cord, and screws.

“3D printing has opened the doors for me and others to create functioning prosthetics very inexpensively…. So while they are not as sophisticated as the $20,000 – $40,000 alternative prostheses, these hands can be easily replaced as children outgrow them,” Zach explained.

The Impact of Zach’s project isn’t confined to his community, but actually reaches across continents. The remainder of the prostheses were scaled to standard sizes and donated to children in need around the world.

The first eight prosthetic hands assembled by project volunteers. (Photo Credit: Diane McCleery)
The first eight prosthetic hands assembled by project volunteers. (Photo Credit: Diane McCleery)

“I am honored to have had the opportunity to lead a project that has impacted so many children in truly life-changing way,” Zach said.

By combining an advanced skill set with his desire to help others, Zach created an incredible Eagle project like only a Scout could.

To learn more about Zach’s Eagle Scout project, check out the article by WKRG News.

To learn more about the positive impact that Scouting can have on young people like Jake, be sure to check out this article on the recent Tufts study, and watch this video:

(Video Credit: WKRG News)

Tags   

Rochelle Randles

Rochelle

Rochelle Randles is a communications specialist at the Boy Scouts of America. She enjoys sharing incredible adventure stories within the Scouting community and beyond. If you have story ideas or questions, reach out to us at communicati[email protected]