A six-year-old Ottawa boy has a new prosthetic hand thanks to a pair of second-year University of Ottawa biomedical engineering students.
Sebastian Chavarria chose the model as part of the university’s challenge to create a prosthetic hand using a 3D printer at the school’s Makerspace centre.
Engineering student Shannon Lee said she and her project partner Robert Rayson spent more than 1,000 hours creating the red mechanical hand that was inspired by the boy's interest in Iron Man.
Seeing Sebatian try on the hand for the first time was an emotional experience, said Lee.
"When he tried it on and it started to work and he went to grab things, I was just, 'Oh my goodness!' Something I made is going to help this kid achieve so many things, give him so many opportunities," she said. "My heart is having a workout today."
Lety Chavarria, Sebastian's mom, is grateful.
"It was completely free and it's made with a 3D printer," she said. "It's amazing what technology and people can do. Now he's going to be able to ride a bike."
Rayson said the 3D printer technology allows the creation of a more affordable prosthetic hand.
"Traditional prosthetic hand, it would cost the parents tens of thousands of dollars. So they actually often wouldn't give him a hand at young ages because you'd be paying $10,000 every two years to get new ones as he grows," Rayson said.
"But this way we can 3D print him a hand for $20 once every year, for example. Make slight changes, modify the design to have him have a hand as he grows up, so it follows him throughout his life."
Lee and Rayson received a $1,000 prize for their design.