Newest Thing at Your Library: Prosthetics?

The feel-good story cruising around the Internet right now is “Kansas teen uses 3-D printer to make hand for boy” from the Kansas City Star. Sixteen-year-old Mason Wilde used a 3D printer to create a Robohand for a 9-year-old family friend who was born with a limb difference (no fingers on one hand), allowing him to control the new hand with wrist movements. When Gizmodo picked it up, I was intrigued. Not just because of the possibilities of 3D Printing (there are many, which will be covered more later), but because of where he made it: the Johnson County Library Makerspace.

The description posted on their site speaks well to the function of Makerspaces, Digital labs, and similar facilities within public libraries:
“Located next to the Information Services desk, the MakerSpace is a place you can go to learn new skills and software, make cool stuff and customize your world. Use the space to play, tinker and experiment with media, design and electronics in an open and collaborative environment. There are no age limits here! A 10 year old can teach classes and a 70 year old can play with toys” (emphasis added).

The story itself is a common maker tale – someone with the need and someone with the know-how got together and started planning. When they got a request to build a hand (this time for a child in South Africa), they came through and made it. Then they did one better, posting the Robohand to Instructables, a website for posting the nuts and bolts of maker projects.

Robohand (and Roboarm) are a project that is sweeping the globe. Recently, Robohand makers went to Sudan to fit hands to those who have lost them in the violence there.

As libraries continue to navigate their role in society and wonder whether or not making has a place in the public library, know that we have only begun to explore the possibilities of improving lives with making.

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