Calgary

Alberta girl's printed plastic purple hand is perfect for high-fives

Jonas Prudden and Levis Schmittke, a pair of Grade 11 students in Cochrane, Alta., just wanted to experiment with their school's 3D printer to make a hand, but it turned out an 11-year-old girl at the neighbouring elementary school actually needed one.

Two teens wanted to use a 3D printer to make a hand and it just so happened someone close by needed one

Jerlena Rittwage talks about her new hand, 3D printed at a local high school 0:57

A pair of Grade 11 students in Cochrane, Alta., just wanted to experiment with their school's 3D printer to make a hand, but it turned out an 11-year-old girl at the neighbouring elementary school actually needed one. 

Jonas​ Prudden says he and Levis​ Schmittke initially approached one of their teachers at Cochrane High School about their idea for an extracurricular activity. 

"He said, 'Oh, is this for the girl at Elizabeth Barrett? And we went, 'Who's that?'"

The girl is Jerlena Rittwage, who was born with an underdeveloped left hand.

$50 and a few weeks

A traditional prosthetic device would have cost her family tens of thousands of dollars, but the hand crafted by Prudden and Schmittke, with plans from the internet, used about $50 worth of plastics and took a few weeks of work.

It's purple and blue, with fingers that bend based on Rittwage's wrist movements.

Rittwage loves it. And so do her peers.

"Lots of the kids in my class, they're like, 'It's a big distraction,' but when I told them to stop, they're like, 'OK, I'll stop,'" she said.

"And they're really finding it so cool, some kids literally wanted to take it from me because they think it's so cool. Taking it would not be nice at all."

High-fives

Rittwage said her favourite things to do now that she has her new hand is to give people high-fives and "pick up water bottles."

Also fun? 

"I've picked up squishies and also thrown, like, basketballs, and it's really, really fun to be like, 'I have a ball, I'll throw it at you.' It's just hilariously fun."

After studying plans and creating a prototype, Schmittke and Prudden say it took about 20 hours to print the final hand and about five hours to assemble it.

'I was just amazed'

Rittwage's dad, Jerry, is floored that the high school students donated their time. 

"I was just amazed. Because a lot of times people don't think that the youth of today care," he said. "But boy, it sure showed a difference. That they really do care."

Schmittke and Prudden are kind of surprised, too.

"It was a cool experience and a giant milestone, and it's just something we did for fun at the beginning," Schmittke said. 

"We didn't dream that we'd be making an actual hand for someone to use."

With files from Anis Heydari