A boy bends his wrist and watches his blue metal fingers curl.
The fifth-grader at Tadmore Elementary School, who was born without some of the fingers on his left hand, received a prosthetic hand Friday that was built by Darrell Skogman, a teacher at Chestatee High School.
Skogman constructed the hand on his own time and dime, using the 3-D printer at the high school.
“I think that’s the cool part, that Darrell has done this all on his own time,” Tadmore Principal Robin Gower said. “It’s not a school thing, it’s just a being-a-wonderful-human-being thing.”
Skogman was first contacted in May by Tadmore psychologist Veronica Humphrey, who got the idea for a 3-D-printed prosthetic from the news.
“I had never done anything like that before, so I told her I would see if I had some students who might be able to take it on over the summer,” Skogman said.
The project proved to be difficult, however. By August, the students had not successfully come up with a plan. That’s when Skogman took on the project himself.
He found enablingthefuture.org, a nonprofit network of volunteers creating “Helping Hands,” or 3-D-printed prosthetic hands specifically for children. He was able to download “the Cyborg Beast” design for the student.
“That was awesome, finding out that there’s a whole community out there,” Skogman said. “With that, it was a lot less about designing it than it was about getting it printed and assembled.”
Skogman worked with Adam Perillo, special-education teacher at Tadmore. Perillo works closely with the student, whose placement in the foster care system means his name cannot be released.
“This has been probably a four-month process,” Perillo said. “He’s been sending me pieces back and forth and I’ve been doing measurements, sending him videos. We’ve had great communication.”
It cost Skogman approximately $50 to purchase a kit for “the Beast,” and another $10 for the plastic materials for printing.
Providing a child with a prosthetic is a new advancement, thanks to 3-D-printing technology.
“Kids have never been able to have a prosthetic before because they grow out of them,” Skogman said. “He will grow out of his hand in six months or less, and a normal prosthetic for an adult is $15,000-40,000. So they just don’t make them for kids.”
Feasibly, Skogman said the student could wear this type of prosthetic the rest of his life. The designs continue to improve and advance, and it can be manipulated and reprinted as he grows.
Perillo said the student can manipulate the prosthetic by bending his wrist. Wire strings from his wrist reach to the plastic digits and move them, allowing the fingers to bend and grip.
“He’s a pretty independent kid regardless, but this has given him something new to master,” Gower said.
The student was able to pick the colors of his hand: black with a bright cobalt blue.
“I said I wanted an Iron Man hand,” he said.
Skogman has three sons of his own, so he fitted the hand to his 7-year-old’s wrist this week to determine the pressure points and sizing.
He met Perillo, Gower and the student for the first time Friday, when he visited Tadmore to give them the new hand.
“The excitement in his eyes from picking up an object for the first time with it was nothing short of amazing,” Perillo said.
Skogman spent about an hour with the student, helping him practice moving, throwing and gripping. The difference in the student within just an hour was remarkable, he said.
“He came into the room with his hand in his sleeve,” Skogman said. “He left with his sleeves rolled up to his elbow.”