By Josh Saunders
An adorable five-year-old is designing and creating 3D hands for kids with limb differences – even making a special holder for nerf guns, kitchen utensils and pencils
Cameron Haight, from Charlotte in North Carolina, USA, started 3D printing assistive hands with his mum Sarah, 32 over a year ago – now they have made over 44 devices for kids in the US, Canada and Japan.
He was born with amniotic band syndrome, a condition where his digits were fused and twisted together in the womb that caused webbing, amputations and deformities to his fingers and toes.
To help overcome problems caused by his limb difference, the mum and son team paired up to build a 3D hand for Cam – a process take over 48hours.
The talented youngster has since learned how to print and build hands for other kids, and even sketches out plans to renovate the hands himself.
Cam’s recent design that he named, the ‘Imagine Tool 5000’, helps children without fingers or a hand to hold nerf guns, kitchen utensils, mobile phones, pencils, pens and more.
Sarah, a full-time mum of three, said: “I’m extremely proud of all of my kids. It’s so exciting to see Cam do something big for other people, it makes me happy knowing it’s important to my boys, as well.
“We have been making the e-NABLE hands for a while but one problem we found with them is that children struggle to grasp things like pencils,
The hands do well with most gross motor functions but lack fine motor skill controls, the hand we found, made it more of a struggle so we wanted to fix that.
“Cam designed this little device that helps hold the writing instrument in a proper position in the 3D printed hand.
“He can still close the hand around the pencil for extra control, allowing him to write as if he had all of his fingers.
“I can sit for hours trying to come up with an idea and draw a blank, but when I ask Cam, he is just able to come up with ideas right away – I guess that’s where he has an advantage over me.
“He’s living with a limb difference and using the hand almost daily, so he knows what things will be helpful.
“Cameron spent up to 40 minutes on the drawing and then we tweaked it over a couple of days, then had to put it into design software, all in all it took a week to design and create.
“Cam named his new creation the Invention Tool 5000 – because he says ‘you use your imagination to do different things with it’, its ‘like a tool because it helps kids without hands do things easier’.
“The 5000 part he says is ‘because he’s five years old so 3000 needed to be 5000 or people might think he was 3 years old’.
“It can be used for holding a cell phone, to strap a water bottle to the residual arm, to hold scissors, spatulas and more, as well as holding a nerf gun.
“When the first print came out, Cam was really excited to be able to show it off.
“His favorite thing to do with it so far is to shoot nerf guns, he’s also looking forward to the pool opening back up to try it out as a swimming paddle.
“Cam absolutely loves 3D design, there are some days where he talks about 3D printing nonstop and then other days when he’s a normal kid who just wants to play in the dirt.
“We are now up to 44 devices we have printed, assembled and shipped.
“We have another six kids and one adult on the waiting list who we are going back and forth getting measurements for and confirming final details before getting started on their custom devices.”
After Cameron was born, surgeons have been operating on him every six to nine months, in the hopes of separating his fingers and toes.
Surgeons have performed over 15 operations, mostly on his clubbed right hand where all fingers other than one were joined together into a fist.
Sarah added: “His right hand was what they call a club hand, all apart from one of his fingers, were banded and twisted together.
“They were all clumped together in a big fist with only his pinky finger sticking out.
“Because the webbing around his fingers was so tightly wound together, he has needed constant surgeries so that he can have more mobility and spread his fingers further apart.”
In 2016, Cameron and his mum started making 3D hands after the young boy wanted to learn how to ride a bike.
With his mum’s help, he started assembling the devices and can even 3D print on his own.
Thanks to the 3D printed hands, Cameron sees his deformity in a positive light calling it his ‘cool robot hand’ and encouraging others to use them too.
Sarah said: “We started off printing the parts for Cameron’s hands after he broke some of them off from his 3D printed hand that was gifted to him and since then we’ve been making full hands.
“He’s only five-years-old now, but he’s really good at it, he goes on the printer, finds the files, sizes, scales and prints them, then we assemble them – it’s really fun to watch him in action.
“He’s the youngest one 3D printing hands of all the others that we’ve heard of and he loves putting them together as well.
“His favourite parts are printing the hands, watching the printer work away, and packing the hands up for others with special notes, gifts, stickers.
“The parts can take between six and 12 hours to print, per piece, but he will sit and watch it sometimes for a full six hours or more.
“Whenever we’re printing parts for other children he’s constantly asking whether it’s for a boy or a girl, what colour they want and really enjoys learning where the other kids are from.”
They have produced over 44 specialist 3D hands and adaptation devices for children in need, setting up a 501 (c)3 non-profit organisation to help fundraise to meet demand.
Since producing the hands, Sarah says she’s noticed a difference in her son’s outlook and perception of his limb difference.
She said: “Before, whenever we went out or were around new people, he would cover his hand, no matter how much we encouraged him to love his hands and was shy about it if we asked him to show someone or someone inquired about it.
“Having a 3D hand has taken all the stigma away from his limb difference and given him a positive spin on it, now he really enjoys showing off his differences.
“Knowing my little boy is now making hands that are changing other people’s lives, ***just as his hand has changed his life, is just an incredible thing to be apart of.”