- Associated Press - Sunday, June 4, 2017

PICAYUNE, Miss. (AP) - A year ago Todd Gigglio, a teacher at the Picayune School District’s Career and Technology Center, made a visit to his alma mater in Bogalusa, Louisiana, that would wind up changing the life of one young girl.

During that visit to Annunciation Catholic School, he showed the students some of the things that can be created using a 3D printer. One of those things was a prosthetic hand. It was then that one of the students asked how much such an item would cost. Gigglio said to purchase a professionally made prosthetic hand could cost as much as $30,000, but he was able to print one using a 3D printer for about $20. The little boy then asked Gigglio if he gave him $10 if he could print a hand for a girl he knew who was born without her left hand.

It was then that Gigglio decided on his next long-term project.

Two students, Jeremy Thorman and Noah Pittman, picked up the project and ran with it. Once the measurements were taken of the girl’s wrist and files were downloaded from a nonprofit website devoted to printing hands and arms for those in need, the project began to take shape. Thorman said it took about two days of printing the parts and another day to assemble the entire hand. But the time leading up to that point took about a year, Gigglio said.

Last week the completed hand was presented to 11-year-old Eden Watts, a student at the Bogalusa school.

As she tinkered with the prosthesis, a smile ran across her face. Just after receiving her new gift, she set out in a crowd of her fellow classmates to show it off. Students crowded around her to get a peek and touch the hand made of plastic, dental bands and double-wound fishing line.

It took some adjustments and some practice, but by the following week, she was picking up plastic cups, as displayed in a video posted to social media. Gigglio showed the video to the Picayune School District’s Board of Trustees during a meeting. In the video, as she picked up the cup, the smile seen a week ago was much more pronounced.

The hand is pretty simple in concept. It works by the compression of the device when Watts bends the wrist on her left arm. That compression transfers down the fishing line to the fingers, causing them to close around objects. Printed in her favorite hue, purple, she said the gift was “very cool.”

The files to print the hand are free, easily located on a website called enablingthefuture.org. For those without access to a 3D printer, hands can be ordered through the website and mailed to the recipient, Gigglio said.

Gigglio’s contribution to the school has inspired Annunciation Catholic School Technology Coordinator Derik Thompson to expedite his long-term plan to create a place in the library for children to interact with technology such as 3D printers.

“I love partnering with anyone to help the students,” Gigglio said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Jeremy Thorman has graduated and plans to attend Pearl River Community College to seek a degree in machining.

Pittman also plans to attend PRCC upon graduation, but said he doesn’t yet know what career path he will take.

Gigglio said if there are local families in need of a prosthetic hand, he is willing to help them, as well.

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