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3-D Printers Help Students Make Prosthetic Hands For Kids

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Mary Kay Kleist Mary Kay Kleist
Mary Kay Kleist is a meteorologist for CBS 2 Chicago. Kleist joined...
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(CBS) -- 3-D printers are becoming more mainstream.

The devices can make everything these days from food to jewelry to medical implants. In Rockford, a printer is being used in a unique way to help two children, CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist reports.

At Boylan Central Catholic High School, something extraordinary happened this year for the teacher, students and two young children, Kaeden Witt and Kylie Wicker.

Both of them were born missing parts of the fingers on one hand. It made things hard.

“Simple little things were more of a struggle for her, but a smile on her face got (her) through it,” says Kylie’s mom, Sharon Wicker.

Design engineering students Boylan came to the rescue. They made new hands for Kylie and Kaeden.

“It blew my mind away,” Kylie, 9, says.

Says Kaeden, 12: “My mom started crying when I got it.”

With the help of teacher Bud May, the students used a 3-D printer. A spool of plastic is fed through the main tube. The plastic is melted and with each layer, the hand takes shape. It takes 17 pieces to make one hand.

Add in a few elastic cords and screws and for about $10, these students have made life easier for Kaeden, who can now pick up a bracelet. Kylie can count to ten with her new hand.

“You think about all the things she’s now able to do with that hand. It just kind of opens up your eyes,” says student Alec Steinhagen.

“She moved her wrist, and she closed her hand, like her face just lit up the whole room, and it was pretty awesome,” Boylan student says Mikey Rodriguez.

Adds May, the teacher: “It just melts your heart. It was just amazing.”

Kylie’s now able to do secret handshakes with her sister, jump rope and cheer — even ride her new scooter now that she has two hands to grip the handlebars.

Both Kaeden and Kylie will keep getting new 3-D printer-made hands until they stop growing around 18. Then, they will get more permanent, high-tech prosthetics.

To learn more about how the engineering class made Kaeden’s and Kylie’s hands, click here.

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