April 29, 2014 -- A high school class in Rockford, Ill., may dramatically change a local girl's life with just a few dollars-worth of plastic.
The students at Boylan High School are using a 3-D printer to make a prosthetic hand for Kylie Wicker, a 9-year-old from nearby Roscoe, Ill., who started coming home from school last month upset about children staring at her underdeveloped left hand.
Kylie's parents, Jeromy and Sharon Wicker, have looked into getting their daughter a prosthetic hand before, but their insurance would only cover 80 percent of the cost of a single prosthetic. That had them thinking they would have to wait to buy Kylie's expensive prosthetic until she was older and not growing anymore.
However, Jeromy Wicker found a video online of another father who made a 3-D printed hand for his son, who had a condition similar to Kylie's.
“I was just Googling 3-D printers in my area and I saw that the Boylan students had [a 3-D printer] donated to them,” Jeromy Wicker told ABC News. "I just emailed them and then they got back to me a few days later that they have already started working on it."
The $2,000 3-D printer was donated to Boylan last fall, prompting the school to get a 3-D printing educational license.
“I didn’t know anything about [3-D prosthetic printing]," said Bud May, an engineering graphics teacher who now teaches an upper-level class that uses 3-D printing technology. "I found instructions online on how to make it. I asked the class if they were interested and it was a unanimous yes.”
May found online instructions at the website for Robohand, which says it is a group that has been making prosthetic hands for individuals in recent years using 3-D printers as an alternative to standard prosthetics.
Since getting the request from Kylie's father and finding the instructions online, the class has been working on creating the prosthetic hand to fit over Kylie’s knuckles, eventually allowing her to grasp and hold items as a normal hand does.
“We had just finished a section of the class on linking system" for 3-D printed objects, May told ABC News. "Now the students are involved in sanding, smoothing and assembling our hand. How lucky can you be? It fell right into our curriculum.”
Kylie actually will receive two prosthetics, one in pink and one in purple, costing less than $20 in total. She had a second fitting for the prosthetics on Monday and will be receiving the first of the finished products Friday.
“She hasn’t stopped talking about it," Sharon Wicker said. “This is huge for [the students], too. To give a girl a hand; how many people can say that? This is great for everybody.”
The school is now planning to help out another child with a similar issue as an extra service project for the students.
“I have been here at Boylan for 10 years, and when you combined technology and emotions and feelings, this is the neatest thing I have ever done,” May said. "This is just a great application of technology making life simpler and easier for people.”