First Hand 3D Printed Prosthetics

We build 3D printed prosthetics for children who need a hand.

Photo of Michael McPhie
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  • Education
  • Environment

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

April 5, 2004

Help us stay in touch!

949-312-8134 CA: Irvine (92603)

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

There are few options today for children who are born without a hand or lose a hand at a young age. Modern prosthetics are expensive and insurance coverage tends to be limited. This means that most kids have to wait until adulthood to receive their first artificial hand.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We make 3D printed prosthetic hands for children using free open source designs available on the web. To see how 3D printed prosthetic hands are changing kids' lives, watch eNable's 3-minute video showcase at We help meet the need for 3D printed prosthetics by hosting "hand-a-thons": community events where volunteers come together and assemble the hands that we have 3D printed. With a hand, a child can grip the handle bar of a bike, catch a ball, turn a doorknob, and otherwise participate more fully in life.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I started getting into computer 3D aided design when I was 11, and built my first 3D printer when I was in eighth grade. I was intrigued by the possibilities of this new technology and wondered how it might be used to help others. I was excited when I came across 3D hand designs, and realized that I could actually create a prosthetic limb from my computer at home! I knew from experience that the 3D printing process can be finicky and time-consuming. That was when I realized that crowd-sourcing with multiple people with multiple printers working together was the key to creating quanties of prosthetic limbs that can begin to meet the demand for them. And I learned that people love working together to literally lend a hand to those in need.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When we host a Hand-a-Thon, we involve as many community partners as possible; many hands make light work. For our Hand-a-Thon last May, for example, we asked several computer clubs to print parts, which they happily did, free of charge. We got donations from a local middle school with a 3D printer, a robotics club, and the University of California Irvine. The Irvine Rotary generously provided the funding for 25 assembly kits (screws for the knuckles, strings, Velcro). Our high school was happy to donate the use their multipurpose room for the event, although we ultimately used the Rotary's venue instead. Volunteers from many high schools and colleges joined with Rotarians and community members to assemble the 3D printed hands.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Our network is youth-led and youth-powered. We have volunteers from scout troops, the National Charity League, our city-wide Youth Action Team, and a variety of high school and university tech clubs.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We have engaged with half a dozen community partners who have donated supplies and funds. More than 30 volunteers have helped print and assemble prosthetic hands. We have the printed parts and supply kits for enough prosthetic hands to help 25 children in need.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

(1) We want to connect with more children in need. We are doing this by applying for advanced certificiation through e-Nable, an organization that connects makers and recipients. Not only will this increase our reach, but it will also allow us to offer hands with greater customization, according to kid's color and design preferences. (2) We want to recruit more local volunteers to lend us their time, talents, and 3D printers. We are doing this by creating a website to get the word out about our cause. (3) We want to duplicate ourselves and our efforts. Many schools here have computer labs with 3D printers. We are creating learning experiences for their students to get involved in designing, printing, and assembling hands for children.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Plan & Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact

Attachments (1)

First Hand 3D Printed Prosthetics at Rotary Internation Conference.JPG

This is a flyer for one of our Hand-a-Thons. We held this event on May 4th (May the 4th be with you!) at Rotary International's District Conference in Southern California. Flyers like this advertise our hand-a-thons to community members who may want to join with our high school and college volunteers to assemble 3D printed prosthetics for children who need a hand.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Leanne Joyce

I have a lot of admiration for your dedication to this cause. It makes me so happy to see others who not only identify an issue, but take the steps necessary to mobilize others and create a change. I have a lot of respect for your ability to engage other youth. You are empowering and inspiring to all!

Photo of John McPhie

Thanks, Leanne! We appreciate your support!

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