Teen Uses 3-D Printer To Make Hand For Boy

By: Erika Tallan, Reporter & Greg Palmer
By: Erika Tallan, Reporter & Greg Palmer

OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV/CNN) - The Johnson County Library is giving hope to a young boy who can't throw a ball, give a high five or turn the pages of a book with his right hand.

Prosthetics usually cost thousands of dollars, all it took in this case was a library card.

A birth defect left Matthew Shields' hand underdeveloped. He was born with only a thumb on his right hand, but a 3-D printer at the library is now giving Matthew a second chance.

The printer built the 9-year-old a new hand.

It was never an issue until this year when Matthew's mom noticed children at his school picking on him.

"He started coming home with his hand in his shirt," Matthew's mother, Jennifer Shields, said.

Social stigma was taking a toll, so Matthew's mom discovered "Robohand," a mechanical hand made with a 3-D printer.

A family friend stepped in to make one.

"When it is all done, to be able to say you gave a kid a hand, gave a kid the ability to grasp something and let him high five or hand shake, it is a pretty amazing feeling," Mason Wilde said.

Wilde, a 16-year-old Louisburg High School junior, loaded blueprints from "Robohand" onto computers at Johnson County Public Library and used their 3-D printer.

Layer by layer, the hand took shape.

It took about eight hours to build a hand with the 3-D printer and created a lifetime of change for Matthew.

"I actually have fingers. I didn't know what that felt like until now," Matthew said.

When his wrist curls, so do the fingers. He can use his right hand like never before.

"It has been a huge blessing. It has changed the conversation from, 'what happened to your hand?' to, 'oh my gosh! That is so cool.' That is huge when you are 9 and when you're a little bit different," Matthew's mom said.

Matthew is still getting used to his new hand, but with it, he feels more confident than ever.

This has inspired Mason to start a nonprofit to make prosthetics from 3-D printers for other children. He is also looking into a career in the biomedical field in prosthetics.

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