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Siena Students Build and Deliver Iron Man-Themed Prosthetic Hand to 5-Year-Old Boy

Students Build and Deliver Prosthetic Hand to 5-Year-Old

Friday, April 24, 2015

Alyx Gleason '17, Joey Fairley'15, John Carder, Laura Carder, Jack Carder, Andrea Young '17 and Frank Chietro '17 after
Alyx Gleason '17, Joey Fairley'15, John Carder, Laura Carder, Jack Carder, Andrea Young '17 and Frank Chietro '17 after "Iron Man Jack" received his new prosthetic hand.

By Ken Jubie '04

A group of Siena College students made 5-year-old Jack Carder feel like a superhero this week. Members of the College’s chapter of the non-profit organization Enabling the Future, travelled to Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday to personally deliver an Iron Man-themed prosthetic hand they built for the boy.

“It was just an amazing experience and Jack is overjoyed,” said Laura Carder, Jack’s mother.

They presented the hand to “Iron Man Jack” in front of his pre-school classmates. Along with impressing his pals, Carder’s custom-built, 3D-printed prosthetic will give him greater function. Carder was born with a right hand that did not fully form, resulting in partial, non-usable fingers except for a semi-usable thumb. His red and gold hand is four-fingered, allowing him to continue to use his thumb.

“It basically just works on the actuation of the wrist. So as the wrist closes, the fingers close and as the wrist opens, the fingers open,” said Joey Fairley ’15, the physic major who launched e-NABLE Siena.

Carder’s family refers to his hand as “little guy.” Now, thanks to the Iron-Man-inspired addition, his parents are expecting some big improvements.

“I think it’s going to give him a lot of confidence to be able to do whatever he wants, especially at school when it comes to writing and tying shoes, and all of the fine motor skills,” Laura Carder said.

While function came first, the team of 13 Siena students who built it also included fashion and flair into the hand’s design. They added glow-in-the-dark features and Carder’s favorite part, a palm laser, just like Iron Man’s.

“I like it,” said Jack Carder. “It lights up.”

Carder’s face lit up later in the day when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Columbus Clippers game. The Clippers are the Triple-A affiliate of his favorite Major League Baseball team, the Cleveland Indians.

“To see him throw out a pitch and get that experience, to get a jersey and get all this attention is just great for him,” said physics major Alyx Gleason ’17. She was part of the assembly and fabrication team.

The Siena volunteers spent almost two months designing and building the hand using the College’s 3D printers and Enabling the Future’s open-source designs, which allow  volunteers to produce and donate customizable, cost-effective prosthetics to people in need. Carder’s hand cost about $50.

The students modified Enable’s designs to fit the measurements and dimensions of Carder’s hand. Then they produced the perfectly-sized pieces of his prosthetic. 

“Working with Joey and everybody at Siena, they really just made us comfortable. There was always something else that they were working on to make it really, really meaningful for Jack,” said his father John Carder. “That really set us at ease and we knew that we had chosen the right people to do this for him.”

Fairley hopes to pursue a career in biomedical engineering with a focus on prosthetic device research and development. Helping people like Carder serves as his motivation to follow his passion for this career field.

“It just warms our hearts to know that, you know, we’re making a difference in this child’s life,” said Fairley.

This experience also made a difference in the lives of the students who worked on the project. Throughout the process, they developed technical skills, learned to use the emerging technology of 3D printing and saw the impact their effort had on this energetic little boy and his family.

“I joined e-NABLE Siena because I want to learn the trade of 3D printing, the development of prosthetics, and to be able to make someone, big or small, smile every day because they have a hand that is all their own,” said physics major Andrea Young ’17. “I was ecstatic to be a part of it and to be able to witness the joy that was on their faces when they saw the hand and Jack put it on and it fit perfectly.”

The e-NABLE Siena team is now working on a prosthetic hand for a man in New Orleans and plans to help more people in the future, giving them a special power any superhero would be proud to possess.

The work of e-NABLE Siena and the delivery of Jack Carder's hand made headlines across the country. It was featured on several major media outlets, including Good Morning America, CBS Sports, FOX SportsSports Illustrated and the New York Daily News.