Origins at UNC Chapel Hill
The Helping Hand Project traces its origins back to the summer of 2014 when Holden’s parents reached out to the Biomedical Engineering (BME) department at UNC Chapel Hill. They had heard of 3D printing being used to create prosthetic devices and were looking for someone who could build their son a similar device. Jeff Powell rose to the challenge by researching and experimenting with open-source designs for 3D printed prosthetic devices. During this process, Jeff met and heard from many other families who wanted a similar device for their child. After the delivery of Holden’s device, Jeff decided to create The Helping Hand Project with fellow students. The group dedicated itself to creating high-quality 3D printed prosthetic devices and providing them to children at no cost.
Growth As An Organization
The HHP at UNC initially focused on providing wrist-driven 3D printed prosthetics devices for children with limb differences. As the chapter’s network increased, it became apparent that the group had the opportunity to help in additional ways. The HHP developed a support network and family events which connect families of children with limb differences, helping them know they are not alone. With the help of a few motivated individuals, new student chapters were created. These chapters each specialized in a new aspect of 3D printed prosthetic devices, improving the quality of devices and helping The HHP meet a broader range of needs.
As the reach of The HHP network continues to grow, we hope to continue to improve and expand the support we provide. We will stay at the forefront of 3D printing technology and open-source prosthetic devices. We will continue to improve the quality of and access to our family events. We will utilize these events to keep the limb difference community informed of their options and increase access to prosthetists, clinicians, and occupational therapists. We will improve our volunteer training and education to better position students to make a positive impact. We will partner with outside organizations to create better experiences and strive to make sure the needs of the limb difference community are met.
UNC Chapel Hill
Established in 2014, our chapter considers our mission to be providing families with Holistic Support. Some of our core activities include: planning the family-get-together events that bring together the limb difference community, organizing annual prosthetics-design conferences that facilitate the spread of best practices between chapters, and design teams that build and research new devices. Our broader focus is enabled by UNC Chapel Hill’s liberal arts focus paired with strong STEM programs and an emphasis on giving back to the community. Our student volunteers have diverse backgrounds which allow for the continued improvement of how we serve the limb difference community.
Established in 2016, our chapter focuses on Elbow-driven Devices and STEM Education. Elbow-driven devices use motion from the elbow, rather than from the wrist, to initiate movement of the device. This design allows a whole new group of people to benefit from the 3D-printed devices the HHP builds. We also educate the broader community through a series of workshops that focus on the work of the HHP and the needs of the limb difference community. We’ve been able to reach schools, companies, and organizations like ours in the greater Charlotte area.
Established in 2016, our chapter focuses on Creative Comfort, which is a fusion of physical and emotional comfort. We can improve physical comfort by exploring different materials and designs for devices, focusing on improving the recipient’s experience. Emotional comfort explores how we can make the recipients more confident about their device. For example, we have attached fidget-spinners, decorated with feathers, and added superhero symbols on devices to make them feel more unique to the recipient. Ultimately we are trying to ensure the devices are as impactful on their recipient’s lives as they can be.
Established in 2017, our chapter specializes in Custom Designs for recipients who would not benefit from a standard 3D printed device. As a university with a large number of engineering programs, many students in our chapter have some engineering backgrounds. This has helped us take on unique and rather challenging cases and come up with a creative solution. We also have Family Support teams that connect with families throughout the device development process, creating care packages for the children and meeting the families, in order to add a personal touch to the process.