Kids Make Prosthetics for Other Kids at First Enabling Handathon in Canada

December 6, 2015 | Ab. Velasco

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Handathon Team
High school students from Jarvis Collegiate worked in pairs or trios with grade school students from Jackman Avenue Public School.


Kids are amazing.

This was reinforced to me over and over as 40 students gave it their all at the first Enabling the Future Handathon in Canada hosted at Toronto Reference Library this past Saturday, December 5.

Working in pairs or trios, high school students from Jarvis Collegiate teamed up with grade school kids from Jackman Avenue Public School to assemble 3D printed prosthetic hands.

The specific model was the Raptor Reloaded Hand, one of the several open source designs created by Enabling the Future and made freely available to download from Thingiverse, a database of free or creative commons 3D designs.


Handathon Team
One of the first teams to complete their Raptor Reloaded Hand.


Enabling the Future is a global network of volunteers who are using 3D printing to give a helping hand to children in need. According to its website, there are now nearly 7,000 members and approximately 2,000 hands that have been created and gifted for free to individuals in over 45 countries.

Partnering with Enabling was a natural fit for the library as it complemented the work of our Digital Innovation Hubs. More so, it was a wonderful way to showcase 3D printing in a broader social context. Yes, you can print phone cases or prototypes, but 3D printing also supports a broader social good.


3D Printer in Action
Young students watch as parts for the Raptor Reloaded Hand are printed by the library's 3D printers, which are available for use at the Digital Innovation Hubs.


With my colleague Alex Dimitrov, I tried making a sample hand beforehand. I have to say that it was not as easy as I thought it would be. It took us six hours to finish (this was in addition to the almost 15 hours it took Alex to 3D print the parts). So I wondered how the kids would fare.

Oh, how little faith I had. The kids simply amazed me with how quickly they picked up the concept and how they worked together -– older child guiding the younger child -- with minimal support from myself and the other adult mentors.

Sure, there were some difficult steps along the way and as expected, not every team finished their hand. But to the organizing team, the learning process was more important than the outcome. If the kids learned more about 3D printing, prosthetics and how technology can be used for social good, we considered that a success on its own.

For myself, the event exceeded my expectations. I was just so impressed by the kids and their perseverance, sense of humour during the pain points (one kid called me "Mr. Toilet" with, I'd like to think, affection), and teamwork.

One of my favourite moments was when a young girl said that she was cutting her lunch break short so she could get back to work on her hand. Now that's dedication.


Handathon Hands
Some of the finished hands at the end of the Handathon.


There were quite a few hands completed at the day of the 6-hour Handathon, such as the ones in the photo above.

Our Canadian Enabling partners will ship the hands to the Enabling office in the US, where they will be reviewed for quality and touched up. Good quality working hands will be matched with children in need. We will be sure to provide an update on this blog when that happens.

Our Handathon would not have been possible without the generous help of Objex Unlimited, who sponsored over 300 hours of 3D printing. Heartfelt thanks to Objex staff – and our former Innovator in ResidenceDerek Quenneville for preparing the 3D parts for our hands.

Big heartfelt thanks also from the library to Canadian Enabling ambassadors Kolden Simmonds and John Spencer (and his wife) and to Nando’s for sponsoring the delicious lunch. And, of course, our Handathon was brought to life thanks to our amazing students and their teacher Sylvia Kwan.

It was a truly special day.


Handathon Group Photo
A few of our Handathon participants from Jackman Avenue Public School and Jarvis Collegiate.