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Civic Impact

Toronto students lend a hand at the public library’s first "hand-a-thon"

On Saturday, December 5, forty Toronto-area students teamed up with the Toronto Public Library and Enabling the Future for the city’s first “hand-a-thon.” Twenty students each from Jarvis Collegiate and Jackman Avenue Public School worked in pairs or trios at the Reference Library branch to assemble a 3D-printed prosthetic hand called the Raptor Reloaded.

Soon, these hands will make their way to the US-based non-profit Enabling the Future, which partners with volunteer printers and assemblers around the world to create prosthetic hands for kids. So far, over two thousand hands have been created and distributed to children in more than 45 different countries.

Ab Velasco, the Digital Innovation project leader at the Toronto Public Library, sees this partnership between the library, the schools, and the non-profit as a perfect example of how the library can explore the many uses of innovative technology like 3D printing. “What really appealed to us about this program was that it was an opportunity to showcase the technology’s social good, and that was important us,” he says. “It showed the students that this technology can be used to to benefit kids and people around the world.”

Toronto’s student groups completed about eight hands, and worked on nearly a half-dozen more. “I was really impressed with how quickly the kids grasped it, how quickly they got it,” he says. The parts were printed ahead of time by Objex Unlimited, who donated 300 hours of printer time towards the project, so that all the teams came into a “level playing field.” The hands will now will be shipped to Enabling the Future to be assessed and fine-tuned before being sent out to the end user.

Velasco says that, once the hands are matched, the library and the students will both receive an update on their hard work. “We want to know about matches at the library, but we also want to let the kids know,” he says. “It was about giving access to technology learning, and social innovation, and bringing that message to children. We were very happy with how that went.”
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