Scout project gives disabled kids a hand

Making functional hands designed to look like those of super heroes with a 3D printer already sounds like a dream scenario for a 15-year-old boy. But local teen Evan Wright, a sophomore at San Dieguito Academy, took the idea to the next level by finding a way to use that fun concept to benefit disabled kids.

For his Eagle Scout service project for Boy Scouts, Evan spent more than a year planning, then using a 3D printer to build the pieces of prosthetic hands, then organizing a group of 40 volunteers to assemble one hand each so they could be sent off to children around the country who are in need of the prosthetic. The biggest of two assembly events was held at Evan’s LDS church in Cardiff.

The hands, which are colorful and often designed in color schemes to match Batman, Ironman or other super heroes (or Elsa from Frozen for girls), cost just $50 to make with the 3D printer. This is huge because traditional prosthetics range from $10,000 for a hook style and up to $50,000 for a more lifelike version. What’s more, many insurance companies only cover the cost for one hand per person in a lifetime — not exactly practical for child who will eventually grow into an adult and need a different size.

When Evan was looking for a project idea, he stumbled across an organization called E-Nable, which had created a file that would direct a 3D printer to create the hands. Being a fan of technology and engineering — and knowing he could help out some kids in need — Evan knew right then that he had his project.

“I wanted to have an Eagle project that was academic-based because I’m more of an academic, artist, engineer kind of student,” Evan told the Encinitas Advocate. “E-Nable makes these files … but they need people to print out the pieces and assemble the hands.”

His family had a 3D printer and his parents said they would give him $500, enough to build 10 hands. But instead, Evan posted a GoFundMe page for $1,000. He easily passed that goal and readjusted it to $2,000, which he was able to reach.

That wasn’t the end either, as GoFundMe the company liked his project so much that it contributed another $1,000. With $3,000 to use, Evan will be able to continue to make hands beyond the 40 that he and his volunteers assembled as part of his Eagle Scout project.

The hands each take a day to print — and errors create a lot of instances of having to start over — so after beginning production at the beginning of last summer, Evan was finally ready to hold a pair of assembly events to actually make the hands ready to send to E-Nable in Alabama. E-Nable will distribute them around the country to kids ages 4-10.

“I’ve seen videos of kids getting them and they really liked them,” Evan said. “For most kids that get these hands it’s their first prosthetic … so that’s pretty cool for them.

“It would be very cool to (see a video of kids getting the hands we put together).”

In early October, Evan organized a smaller group to put the kits together and get everything set for the bigger event the next weekend. A week later, a group of 40 friends, fellow Boy Scouts, Evan’s SDA Robotics teammates and members of the church gathered at the church and each used a kit and the pieces Evan had printed to assemble one hand. The volunteers, who ranged in age from 7 to adult, where not only down for the cause but also very impressed with the technology.

Since he has all of the necessary merit badges and has stayed active with the troop, this service project will complete the work Evan needs to become an Eagle Scout.

While some of the merit badges such as first aid, swimming and lifesaving are required, Evan wanted to do more and now has around 120 in other areas of interest such as architecture, welding, shooting, dentistry, sustainability, Indian Lore, programming and chess.

“I’ve been in Boys Scouts ever since I was 7 years old,” Evan explained. “I simply challenged myself to get all of the merit badges. There is also this thing called STEM/Nova for people who are especially into science, technology, engineering and mathematics … and even more famous is the Supernova award. I’ve got the bronze level and I’m almost done with silver.”

One merit badge that was right up his alley was robotics, as Evan is a member of SDA’s Team Paradox 2012, which appeared at the high school robotics world championship event in St. Louis last May after winning the regional competition.

Evan lives in Carlsbad with dad Casey, mom Stacey, brother Alec, 11, and 5-year-old sister Bryn. At SDA, Evan likes his art, architecture and engineering classes best and he has his eye on a career in one of those three areas.

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