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Kaitlyn Son ('19) on Creating Prosthetics for Children

It is safe to say Spring 2016 was a fantastic semester for Information Science undergraduate Kaitlyn Son (’19). For starters, she completed her first year in pursuit of a Bachelor of Information Science through Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). In April, her Helping Hands initiative, which uses 3D printing to create prosthetics for children, took third place in the Cornell Big Idea Competition, and shortly after, she was awarded a scholarship to further develop Helping Hands over the summer. 

Kaitlyn filled us in on her motivation behind and vision for Helping Hands:

What is Helping Hands, and how did you come up with this idea? 

“Helping Hands is a 3D printed solution for children and young adults in need of a prosthetic limb or orthopedic medical device. 

“I studied 3D engineering at a summer engineering program at the University of Pennsylvania. Later that summer, I also served as an instructor in HTML, Java, 3D printing and 3D modeling at the Digital Arts Experience, a state-of-the-art facility in White Plains, NY, offering technology curriculum to young adults. It was there that I developed an interest in 3D printed prosthetics. I found out that one in every 1,000 infants are born with missing fingers. That means about 72,000 children in the US and about 1.6 million in the world are in need of some sort of hand prosthetic. However, prosthetics are extremely expensive. One traditional prosthetic hand usually costs around $40,000."

What’s the next step for your project?

“So far, I have created two working prototypes. The plan for Helping Hands is to, at first, focus on educating and training developers, designers, and technicians in creating. fitting and printing our new generation of prosthetics. We will focus on just hands at first but quickly move into casts, splints, other medical orthopedic devices, and other prosthetics. In the meantime, we will build our own crowdfunding platform, specific to Helping Hands. Similar to Kickstarter and Donors Choose, people will be able to contribute in certain increments to different projects.

“Helping Hands placed third in Cornell’s Big Idea Competition out of 71 contestants [in April 2016]. I was the only freshman that made the finals. Also, today I was notified that I received the 2016 John Jaquette Award and $1,300 in scholarship funding to work on Helping Hands this summer! It is exciting to receive validation for the idea and funding for the venture. I look forward to propelling Helping Hands further."