- Associated Press - Sunday, April 19, 2015

HARRISON, Ark. (AP) - Cameron Little gave his mom a few playful jabs with his left hand.

What would normally be just a loving sign of affection took on even more significance this day. Cameron finally had a left hand with which to jab Mom.

A third-grader at Forest Heights Elementary School, Cameron was born without a left hand. That changed when, with dozens of family, friends and well-wishers looking on, Cameron got a hand, courtesy of his classmates and the students in the Harrison Junior High Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) class.

The hand, made on a 3-D printer, was a project taken on and completed by the EAST class, but the inspiration came from Cameron’s friends and classmates in Carolyn Rook’s class at Forest Heights.

“Cool! Cool!” Cameron’s classmates exclaimed as EAST students fitted the hand on his arm.

Cameron’s teacher explained that the class had been studying technology and artificial limbs made with 3-D printers.

“It was kind of like a moment happened,” Rook said. “Cameron! Hello!”

EAST teacher, Mary Beth Hatch, was contacted, and she agreed to take on the project of making a hand for Cameron.

“They’ve all cared about Cameron, making this happen for him,” Rook said.

Hatch explained that a website called enablingthefuture.org is able to provide computer plans for artificial hands that can be made on a 3-D printer. She emphasized that her students did all the work on the project, taking measurements of Cameron’s right hand, entering data into the computer, monitoring the printer’s progress as it made the individual parts, then assembling the parts into a hand.

The project took many, many hours, Hatch said, as the 3-D printer used a plastic fiber to slowly build up the parts.

“This is just a testament to how big a deal this is,” Hatch said, looking out at the many people in the audience.

Katie Fowler was one of the students who worked on the hand. Only a few days before, she said, the students discovered that the company had sent plans for a right hand. Cameron needed a left hand. The partially completed right hand had to be disassembled, a new left hand plan entered into the computer, a new hand printed, then assembled.

Finally, the hand, which would respond to movements of Cameron’s wrist, was on. The time had come to see if it would work.

“Comfortable?” Cameron was asked. “Now try to bend your wrist.”

As everyone looked on, the fingers of Cameron’s new hand moved ever so slightly.

“Oooooo!” His classmates marveled.

Slowly Cameron balled his new hand into a fist.

Hatch explained that once Cameron’s wrist built up strength and he got used to his new hand, it would move more easily.

“Can you give me a fist bump?” Hatch asked, and Cameron happily obliged.

The fist bumps continued as Cameron’s classmate crowded around him.

Harrison Superintendent Mendy Moss was among those looking on.

“This is what our dream of EAST was about,” she said. “Never underestimate the love of a bunch of third-graders.”

According to Hatch, a previous story that had appeared in the Daily Times had inspired another family. They contacted her, saying they had a child with the same condition, and could her class make a hand for them. Hatch’s class was already in the process of building the hand.

Hatch went on to say that the plans for Cameron’s hand cost only $25, but the company had a electronic hand for $300. Next year, she said, she wanted her class to attempt to make one of those, and, of course, she wanted Cameron to be the “guinea pig.”

Chasity Little, Cameron’s mother, was overcome with emotion as she watched her son try out his new hand.

“I just wanted to tell you how much this means to both of us,” she said, wiping the tears. “Even though he was born without a hand, he’s been the strongest child I’ve ever seen.”

Hatch’s prediction soon came to pass, and within a half hour, Cameron was working his new hand with ease. He was even able to grip a can of soda and toss it to a nearby person.

“It was a lot of team work,” Fowler said of the project. “It’s all for him.”

___

Information from: Harrison Daily Times, https://www.harrisondaily.com

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