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How a 3-D printed hand gave this girl the gift of play

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, a young girl born without bones in one of her hands can now play just like her sisters thanks to an innovative 3-D printed prosthetic. Mary Williams, a Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellow from Hughes STEM High School, reports.

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  • John Yang:

    Finally tonight, a story about a young girl who's been given the gift of play.

    Ella Morton was born without bones in one of her hands. A traditional prosthetic hand would have cost up to $10,000. But thanks to one organization, Ella can play just like her sisters, at no cost to her family.

    This story was produced by Mary Williams, a Gwen Ifill Legacy fellow from Hughes STEM High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

  • Mary Williams:

    Advanced technology is changing the way we all live our lives.

    But for 4-year-old Ella Morton and her mother, Heather, it has made a huge difference.

    Thanks to some engineering students and a three-dimensional printer at the University of Cincinnati, Ella able to enjoy the same activities as most children her age.

  • Heather Morton:

    When Ella was born, she has no fingers. She has no bones in the palm of her hand. She has bones up to her wrists. And she can flex at her wrist, but that's pretty much where her bones stop.

    She's always been very outgoing and doesn't want anything to stop her.

  • Mary Williams:

    So, Ella, what do you call your special hand?

  • Ella Morton:

    Lucky Fin, because (INAUDIBLE) have a Lucky Fin like me.

  • Mary Williams:

    Eden Barcus, Jacob Granger, and Ishan Anand are engineering students and members of EnableUC, a student group collaborating with Enable, an open source organization that provides a variety of cost-effective prosthetic assistive devices.

  • Eden Barcus:

    One of EnableUC's main missions is to provide 3-D-printed prosthetics for children.

    Prosthetics are very expensive, and children grow at a rapid rate.

  • Jacob Granger:

    This is the second hand we have given Ella. And so, like, if she was buying a fully commercial, fully marketed prosthetic, every two years, you're going to need a new hand, and where we can just be like, oh, yes, we will just print you off another one.

  • Ishan Anand:

    The biggest thing is getting the right measurements of the patient and understanding the mechanics of a patient, because each patient is a little bit different, and how they use their hand and how they hope to use their hand are all different variables you have to take into account.

  • Jacob Granger:

    It's incredible that we can give someone a prosthetic and give them the opportunity to have full function in both hands.

  • Mary Williams:

    Jacob Knorr, now a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic, founded the EnableUC program in the fall of 2015 to promote 3-D printing technology as a way to bridge the gap between engineering and medicine.

  • Jacob Knorr:

    Ella, I will say, is probably my favorite. I mean, you could tell she lit up when they gave her this hand. And she was able to catch a tennis ball for the first time ever, which is pretty amazing.

  • Mary Williams:

    Ella's mother says her daughter can do so much more now that she has two hands.

  • Heather Morton:

    I don't think they have under — they totally get how much of an impact it made on our family and Ella.

    The first thing that she's always said when she puts it on, she's like, "Look, I have two hands now, mommy, just like my sisters. And I can hold both Barbies. And I can play. And I can do all the same things as my sisters do."

    I like to think that we have never made her feel different, but this just makes it feel more normal.

  • Mary Williams:

    For "PBS NewsHour" Studio Reporting Labs, I'm Mary Williams.

  • John Yang:

    Great story.

    On the "NewsHour" online right now. Merely seeing a political symbol like an elephant or a donkey can cause you to reject facts that you would otherwise support. That's according to a new study. Learn more about the science of partisan ranking on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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