Sarah Valentiner is a young girl who was born without her right hand. Amazingly, she also has an incredible talent for playing the violin. While we have written before about 3D printed violins, this is the first time we have seen a 3D printed prosthetic that will allow a 12 year old the ability to further her craft as a violinist. Sarah began learning to play the violin using a basic prosthetic tool that was given to her by the local Shriners Club. But the tool was mainly used for everyday tasks, and it was beginning to hamper her ability to play.
This is where Sarah’s parents began to seek out engineers at Northern Illinois University, where they both worked as professors, to help create a prosthetic that was more suited to her playing abilities. They were eventually put in touch with Engineering student Oleseun Taiwo, who decided to take on the challenge of creating the specialized prosthetic for her. Taiwo began working in conjunction with e-Nable, a group of designers, engineers and makers who are dedicated to offering 3D printed prosthetic designs to kids around the world. The design however, was entirely Taiwo’s. His instructor Federico Sciammarella, (who is already known worldwide for his 3D printing accomplishments) stated that “I gave Oleseun the opportunity and the guidance, but this is his design. I wanted him to be the owner of this project … that’s the only way they learn.”
As Taiwo began working with Sarah, they worked on not only the fit, but also how she would need to move her hand, along with numerous other details. The new design would also mean that Sarah would no longer have to dismantle the bow of the violin to begin playing. “It just made sense,” said Taiwo. “Taking the bow apart, and reassembling it with one hand, is no easy task.” The goal was to make her the perfect hand. This took six different versions, with the last being made of a lightweight nylon/plastic material. They are now sharing their information with e-Nable, to contribute to the network and hopefully help others in some form.
The experience has greatly influenced both Oleseun and Sarah, even beyond their newly shared interest in 3D printing. Taiwo now believes that he wishes to help people with his career, “When I started in engineering I figured I’d just get my degree and get a job,” he stated, but now he believes that working with Sarah has “changed me” and that he now wants to work on projects that have a solid contribution to the world. And Sarah now shows great interest in becoming and engineer herself, citing the boost in her confidence from using the prosthetic to play, and wanting to make the world a better place. You can see the video below.