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Gabriel Filippini wanted to surprise his little brother, Lucas, with something extra special for his 6th birthday.

Photo by Gabriel Filippini, used with permission.


Lucas was born without a hand, so Gabriel thought he'd find a way to make him a prosthetic one.

Fortunately, his high school in Virginia just so happened to have recently purchased a 3D printer.


An Afinia printer in action, similar to the one Gabriel's school bought. Image via Afinia3DPrint/YouTube.

"Lucas can do everything he wants with one hand, but I wanted to see what he could do with two," Gabriel told Upworthy.

Gabriel spoke with his CTE (Career Technology Education) teacher, Kurt O'Connor, at Park View High School, about using the 3D printer for this rather complicated endeavor.

"I didn't think it was impossible, but I did see some challenges. Honestly the 3D printing world is rather knew to me, and I have spent the last year learning more about it," O'Connor admitted to Upworthy.

O'Connor was not about to put limitations on what his students could do, so together, he and Gabriel came up with a plan.

They decided to reach out to a company called e-Nable or Enabling the Future — a global organization made up of volunteers who help teach people how to create prosthetic hands using 3D printing.

Yup, that's a Wonder Woman prosthetic arm. This girl is badass. Photo from E-Nable/Facebook, used with permission.

Once e-Nable got them set up with DIY tutorials and design patterns for the prosthetic, O'Connor and Gabriel got to work.

The project was not without its challenges.

"One of the biggest challenges Mr. O'Conner and I had was the joints," Gabriel explained. "They had to be flexible in order for the fingers to bend. When we printed the joints for the first time, they were stiff."

To solve this problem, O'Connor reached out to Makersmith, a company that specializes in teaching kids how to build things, to help them print new joints that were more flexible.

The Raptor Design. Enable the Future.

The first hand they created ended up too big. Luckily, thanks to the 3D printing technology, they were able to scale down the design without too much fuss and print a new one that fit properly.

When Lucas's 6th birthday rolled around in June 2016, he was ecstatic to receive such a thoughtful gift from his older brother.

Lucas gripping a box with his new hand! Photo by Gabriel Filippini, used with permission.

While Gabriel couldn't be there to give Lucas the hand in person (he was out of state on a trip), he was able to FaceTime to see his brother with the new hand. Their mom told Gabriel how excited Lucas was, immediately wanting to pick things up with the new hand. According to his brother, he's most looking forward to learning how to tie his own shoes using two hands.

This amazing moment of giving the gift of double handedness was brought to you by a brother's love and the ability to think outside the box.

Both O'Connor and Gabriel would love to keep working on helping hand projects like this.

Photo by Enable the Future.

"I'd love to help more kids in need. Park View High School is actually considering registering with e-Nable to help other kids in our community and other communities," Gabriel said.

"After completing this project and seeing the impact we have had on this little boy's life, I am definitely going to bring this into the classroom," O'Connor said.

As a result of this project, the Loudoun County Public School has created an initiative called One to the World, which O'Connor says will "[challenge] teachers to develop and deliver real-world applications to students."

The simple message here is if you can dream it, you can do it. And if you can dream something that will improve someone else's life, even better.

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