Girl Scouts' Prosthetic Hand Device to Get Patent

"Flying Monkeys" group also met child who is benefitting from winning invention.

June 15, 2011, 11:30 PM

June 16, 2011 — -- If there was a way for trees to talk, then a big, old fir residing in Ames, Iowa, would tell a magnificent story about six Girl Scouts who meet in its branches and last year hatched a splendid idea.

Today, the team of six who call themselves "The Flying Monkeys" were in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Patent Office to be recognized for their idea -- a prosthetic hand device that helped a 3-year-old to write.

"It's a really big deal to be getting a patent," said 13-year-old Kate Murray a.k.a. "Monkey 2." "Almost no one at our age has one and it's very special. It means our invention is really worth it."

"They came up with what turned out to be a heck of a project," said Kate's mother, Melissa Murray, and one of the team's coaches.

A Project for Danielle

In 2010, the girls entered the worldwide FIRST LEGO League science and engineering challenge, which focused on robotics applied to medical issues. Having decided to work on hand and arm prosthetics, they met with prosthetics manufacturers and doctors.

After Melissa Murray met Dale Fairchild of Duluth, Ga., online and found out that Fairchild's daughter Danielle, 3, had been born without fingers on her right hand, the Flying Monkeys decided to dedicate their concept to assisting her.

The project took the girls at least 180 hours of work and research between the fall of 2010 and spring 2011.

Using Danielle's measurements, they were able to create what they call "the BOB-1," made from moldable plastic, a pencil grip and Velcro. The device cost them less than $10 to build.

Melissa Murray said the contest judges were stunned with the team's invention. "They didn't know what to do with them [the girls]," she said.

The girls won the $20,000 FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award from the X Prize Foundation in April, in addition to a provisional patent.

"I never thought I would have a patent," said 12-year-old Mackenzie Grewell, a.k.a. "Monkey 4." "When I first found out, I didn't even know what the word meant."

Melissa Murray said they used the money for patenting the BOB-1 and creating a slightly improved version called BOB-1.2. She said it could take up to three years to secure the final patent.

'Wow, I Can Write!'

On Wednesday night, The Flying Monkeys finally got to meet Danielle Fairchild for the first time and watch her draw and color with their invention. Danielle's mother, Dale Fairchild, said the BOB-1 gave her daughter the option to use her right hand. Danielle was born with symbrachydactyly but is not a candidate for a prosthesis.

"When Danielle first got the BOB and we opened it up, her eyes lit up and she said, 'Wow, I can write with my other hand!'" Fairchild said. "She immediately put on the BOB and started scribbling and doodling with it. It was great."

"I feel like we really accomplished something," said 12-year-old Maria Werner Anderson, a.k.a. "Monkey 6." "It actually works and she is happy using it. ... She wouldn't have been able to do this before."

"I think it would be fantastic if these kids could get it out to anybody that needs it, whether they are children, whether they are war veterans coming back, whether they are elderly people with arthritis," Melissa Murray said.

Courtney Pohlen, 12, a.k.a. "Monkey 5," said she hoped the BOB would help others reach their dream and "do what they've always wanted -- to write or color or do different things like that."

"I think it would be cool if we had, like, our own company and then we made BOBs," said 12-year-old Zoe Groat, a.k.a. "Monkey 1."

Gaby Dempsey, 12, a.k.a. "Monkey 3," agreed.

"I hope to make lots of them," she said. "It could go nationwide. A lot of people could use them. It would help people."

ABC News' Ki Mae Heussner contributed to this article.

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