Lucas Fillippini was born with no left hand. Just one of those things that happens. But at six and in school, Lucas gets reminded over and over by his fellow students that he isn’t “normal.” The other kids ask about his “little hand” and dare each other to touch it. Due to the high cost of replacing prosthetics for a growing boy, his family was waiting to begin seeking one for him.

Enter Lucas’s big brother, 16-year-old Gabriel Fillippini. A junior in Park View High School in Loudoun County, Virginia, he wanted to do anything he could to help out his little brother.

Inspiration struck when he learned that his school had acquired a 3D printer in the career and technical education classroom.

Kurt O’Conner, the teacher in charge of the new appliance, was the first person Gabriel approached with his idea. He wanted to print a custom, functional prosthetic hand for Lucas.

“Gabriel came to me and kind of asked if we could print out a prosthetic hand, and I was kind of taken aback by it,” said O’Conner. “I said, ‘I don’t know, I guess we could try.'”

Try they did. With O’Conner’s help, Gabriel petitioned for help from the community, and he got it. Enabling the Future, a volunteer organization focused on developing and spreading open-source prosthetic designs specifically for 3D printers, donated free customized designs for the new hand. A local group of 3D printing hobbyists helped fine-tune those designs, perfecting the knuckle joints so Lucas would have a solid grip and range of movement.

Through trial and error, they crafted the perfect hand. And on Lucas’s sixth birthday, Gabriel surprised him with the finished version.

Gabriel’s project may have lit a fire that will keep burning. Gabriel wants to keep making prosthetics for kids in need, and O’Conner hopes to incorporate projects like Lucas’s hand into his future engineering classes.

“I was just fortunate enough to have a tool and end up using it for something spectacular,” said O’Conner.

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