John Tolley, November 6, 2017

On these pages, we often tell of the breakthrough work being done in the fields of medicine and science that either have or have the possibility to change lives. From outright cures to innovative therapies to cutting-edge technologies, there is a seemingly endless supply of stories of how researchers and physicians are making the world happier and healthier.

Less often, though, do we get the opportunity to share stories of how the field of design is having such a direct impact on the wellbeing of others. Today, we?re pleased to share with you this story of how a faculty member at Indiana University used his unique set of skills to help a young girl get a brand new arm.

Nine-year-old Violet Hall was born missing a large portion of her right arm including her hand, a fact that understandably stunned her parents, Milet and Brandon. But, the girl, who today loves basketball, music and drawing, has never let her condition define her.

While Violet has tried prosthetics in the past, her parents said that the fit just never seemed right, and the arms ultimately ended up proving more hindrance than help.

However, Milet?s curiosity was piqued after seeing the possibilities of 3D-printing at IU?s annual Science Fest. Through Facebook, she sent out a call-to-action to the university community to see if anyone had the know-how to construct a functional and affordable prosthetic for her daughter.

As luck would have it, Violet plays basketball on the same team as the daughters of Jon Racek, a senior lecturer at IU?s School of Art and Design. Racek saw Milet?s post, and though at the time he had only dabbled in 3D design and printing, he accepted the challenge.

Racek worked with Violet over the course of several months to create a customized and comfortable arm that will hopefully allow her to continue pursuing music and ride a bike. Making use of IU?s MAD LABS makerspace, Racek was able to design, visualize and fabricate the arm to Violet?s specifications.

When presented with the final model, Violet was speechless, which, we believe, says it all.

To learn more, check out IU?s story here.