For his 6th birthday, Lucas Filippini received a gift he’ll never forget. His older brother, Gabriel, used a 3D printer to make him a prosthetic hand.
The Sterling Elementary School student said it was the best present he’s received.
“I like it; I like it a lot because I can grab stuff with two hands,” he said.
Lucas was born with an underdeveloped left hand, which made it difficult for him to perform some daily functions, such as zipping his jacket and tying his shoes.
With his younger brother placed on a waitlist for a prosthetic hand, the Park View High School junior decided to take matters into his own hands.
When Gabriel heard the school had a new 3D printer, he reached out to his teacher, Kurt O’Connor, with an idea.
“Out of the blue, he approached me about building his brother a prosthetic hand,” O’Connor said.
Being unfamiliar with the new technology, O’Connor and Gabriel collaborated with Enabling the Future, an organization that provided free blueprints, and Makersmiths of Leesburg, a hobbyist group that provided the knuckle joints, to create the hand.
“This was definitely a community effort,” O’Connor said. “Using resources and instructions from Enable, we were able to knock this thing out.”
After trial and error, the hand was developed to fit Lucas, and presented to him June 17, the day he turned 6.
The prosthetic hand has increased Lucas’ mobility. He said he’s learning to tie his shoes, and can now hold and carry items with both hands.
The boys’ mother, Romina Barrera, said the hand is helping Lucas in ways she couldn’t imagine. “He’s doing stuff we never thought he would be able to do,” she said. “This is going to help him do other things.”
Despite his success in making a prosthetic hand, 16-year-old Gabriel said creating and outfitting patients with prosthetic limbs is not a career he’d like to pursue at the moment.
“That’s not what I’d like to do, but it was a fun project,” he said. “It made [Lucas] happy; that’s all that counts.”
Regardless, Gabriel and O’Connor said they may continue to make more hands for Lucas, and already have two larger sizes in the works. O’Connor suggested the next one should mimic a superhero. “I say we should do, like, an Iron Man,” he said with a laugh. A proposition which Lucas was not opposed to.