High Schoolers Design & 3D Print a Prosthetic Hand for 7-Year-Old Boy

When he was approached by a local Minnesota resident looking to help her nephew, instructor Mark Vonder Haar turned to his students in the Technology and Engineering class at Orono High School. Together, they spent all year helping to create a 3D printed hand prosthetic for seven-year-old Johnny Skoog. Little Johnny’s prosthesis was based on the popular Raptor Hand design developed by the engineers at E-nable.

johnny enginner teacher 3d print prosthetic

Maas had seen a news story about another child receiving a 3D printed hand prosthetic, and thought that her nephew could benefit from something similar. Johnny was born with a right hand that had only a thumb and was missing the remaining four fingers. It didn’t take much convincing for Vonder Haar to help out, and he decided that it would be a good class project for his technology and engineering students.

Vonder Haar said that he and his class explored several different 3D printable prosthetic hand options before settling on the Raptor Hand. The chosen design allows for a total or partial hand replacement that easily allows the user to grip objects without the need for complex mechanics or robotics. The hand is strapped to the wearers arm using velcro straps and the fingers open and close based on the movement of the wrist.

johnny wearing 3d printed handVonder Haar and his students presented Johnny with his new hand this past October, and he took to the prosthetic very quickly. He’s currently using it regularly around the house, and wears it about 30% of the time.

Of course, Johnny is a growing boy and his hand will need to be replaced as he outgrows it. But because there are digital files already designed for him, all that really needs to be done is bump up the size slightly, and maybe change the colors if Johnny get’s bored of the yellow and gray. And, for his part, Vonder Haar has said that he is more than happy to continue working with Johnny and his family as replacement parts and hand upgrades are required.

“My name is out there as a contact for [helping] to make printed hands,” Vonder Haar told the Orono High School newspaper, The Spartan Speaks. “I would definitely help out others in the future.”

johnny 3d printed prosthetic hand_full

In addition to generous educators like Vonder Haar, the amazing organization E-nable is a loose collective of 1,500 engineers, artists, educators, students and parents from all over the world who have helped thousands of people receive inexpensive prosthetic hands and arms, often costing less than $50 in materials. And while Johnny’s aunt foot the bill for his hand, many of those in need even receive their hands for free.

“I can pick-up toys and get high-fives,” Johnny told The Spartan Speaks. “It makes me really happy.”

For a local news segment on the story, watch below: