It's only a month into the New Year, but Mason Wilde and his young friend Matthew have already set the bar for inspirational use of technology about as high as it can go for 2014.
Wilde, a 16-year-old high school student in Kansas City, Kansas, crafted a working "Robohand" prosthesis using a 3D printer at his local library for Matthew, nine, who was born without fingers on his right hand.
Matthew pretty much considers Wilde his hero, according to The Kansas City Star.
"He's awesome," the third-grader said of his family friend. The hand Wilde crafted for Matthew can open and close "and even hold a pencil," the newspaper reported.
Wilde has had a "passion for figuring out how things work" since he was a small child, his family told the Star. In high school, he decided he'd rather be an engineer than focus on sports and in recent years has built his own computer and engaged in other DIY projects, according to the paper.
Wilde used a design available on Makerbot's Thingiverse site. After printing out the thermoplastic parts for the Robohand over about nine hours in the Johnson County Library's new Makerspace area, the teen assembled the mechanism at Matthew's kitchen table with screws, nylon string, and other materials, according to the Star.
Matthew has had the Robohand for a couple of months now and is still getting used to it, struggling a bit to write legibly, for example, but getting better every day, the newspaper reported.
The boy's mother Jennifer told the Star that commercial prosthetic hands running as much as $18,000 (£11,000) were out of reach for her. She actually discovered the 3D-printable Robohand design, created by American Ivan Owen and South African Richard Van As, who lost fingers in a workshop accident. Owen and Van As built the first Robohand in 2012 and put the 3D-printable design online in 2013.
Matthew's Robohand has also helped him gain confidence with his peers, his mother said.
"Every day, kids were asking him, 'What happened to your hand, what happened to your hand,' and I noticed it was wrecking his spirit. Social stigma was starting to creep in on him," she told the Star.
The Star said most folks using the Johnson County Library's Makerspace printer use it to print "Lego-like pieces, small replacement parts for electronics, toys, and some 3D models," but "[t]he Robohand is by far the most interesting," according to librarian Meredith Nelson.