- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

BEDFORD, N.H. (AP) - Harun Halilovic proudly showed off his 3-D-printed prosthetic arm, grabbing at every object in sight.

The red, white and blue plastic fingers clenched down on a stress ball, a paperweight and then the basket that once contained those objects.

“As you can tell, he’s very excited about it,” said Penny Demos, an occupational therapy assistant at Peter Woodbury Elementary School in Bedford.

Printed by students at the Academy for Science and Design, a chartered public school in Nashua, the arm is the first edition of many to come. There are still some kinks to work out, but it’s clear as the 7-year-old second-grader grabs from one object to the next that he’s just happy to have something close to a second arm.

Harun was born with amniotic band syndrome, a congenital birth defect that occurs when the fetus becomes entangled with amniotic bands in the womb. He’s had 15 surgeries to help increase blood flow and to graft skin to his limb, which ends near his elbow, and his plastic surgeon is recommending more. But Harun’s parents worry about the impact the surgeries are having on him.

“Their concern is, ‘Do we want to keep doing this?’” Demos said.

So Demos and her brother-in-law got the idea during a backyard barbecue to reach out to ASD to see whether students there could 3-D print an arm, and the school was completely onboard.

“This came as a godsend to them, that we can hopefully help him with this kind of prosthetic and we can get him through until he’s fully grown,” Demos said.

Madge Smith, ASD’s computer science teacher, recruited a team of students who volunteered to create the arm after school hours.

The students in grades 7-10 met once a week for about three months to research, 3-D print and assemble the arm. They used a template and information provided by the e-NableCommunity and Team UnLimbited, online communities that provide open-source information to help people 3-D print hands and limbs.

“These networks are all about helping kids for whom it’s too expensive to get a real prosthetic,” Smith said.

The materials to print the arm cost ASD $13, so as Harun grows, they will be able to take new measurements and develop new arms at minimal expense.

Although the students had the templates to help, they had to size the arm to fit Harun and assemble it. They designed it with the colors and logo of his favorite superhero, Captain America.

“I love superheroes, and blue is one of my favorite colors,” Harun said of Captain America.

Harun has also requested a component that glows in the dark, and the students said they would look into it.

Freshman Alex Kennett said assembling the fingers was his favorite task, because it required a lot of time and patience. The students covered the fingertips with a coarse plastic material to help Harun grip objects.

Freshman Sierra Landel said she enjoyed installing the tendon-like strings that allow the hand and wrist to move.

“Mostly because I really liked doing it, and it got me away from all my other homework,” Landel said.

The arm, which Harun controls with his elbow, has its limitations: Its grip strength and dexterity are limited, and like all things plastic, it can melt in the sun. He will also have to build up muscle strength to use it to his full ability.

Harun wrote a list of things he hopes to do with the arm, which include catching a ball and riding a swing. While he hasn’t been able to accomplish any of those goals yet, Demos said some of them are within reach.

“One of the things he’s looking forward to is being able to hold the handlebars of a bike,” Demos said.

Dan Mitchell, the assistant principal at Peter Woodbury School, commended Demos for her initiative to make Harun’s arm a reality.

“It’s kind of rare that you get to see a barbecue conversation come to fruition,” Mitchell said. “It rises about the standard and expectation of OT staff in an elementary school.”

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Online:

http://bit.ly/2qdqMpJ

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For more information: The (Nashua) Telegraph, www.nashuatelegraph.com

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