Before they root for the Orioles to complete a four-game sweep of the Athletics, fans attending at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Aug. 17 are in for a very “special” treat when they watch guest Hailey Dawson throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Hailey, a young girl from Las Vegas, was born with a rare disease called Poland Syndrome, which affects one to three newborns per 100,000. It is a disorder in which affected individuals are born with missing or abnormal muscles on one side of the chest wall, and many affected are born with abnormalities of the hand, which may involve shortened or partially fused fingers.
Calling it her “special hand,” Hailey’s right hand is not fully developed, and she was born with a “tiny pinky and thumb and little nubbins for middle fingers,” according to her mother, Yong Dawson.
But Hailey wanted to play baseball.
Prosthetics can be very expensive, especially for someone who is growing up and will eventually need new sizes. So, Yong turned to a 3-D printer in an attempt to have a more affordable version of a prosthetic hand made. When the first version was too stiff and difficult for Hailey to move, Yong had another idea, and she turned to University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ engineering students.
Using a 3-D printer, UNLV students designed a functional hand for Hailey.
“This is a dream project,” Professor Brendan O’Toole, chair of mechanical engineering at UNLV, told KTNV. You get to help somebody, you’ve got a little bit of robotics ... It’s a great design project.”
The new hand, created by UNLV students, has given Hailey the opportunity to do many things that she was unable to do before with her right hand including, you guessed it, gripping and throwing a baseball.
“(The 3-D printed hand) is operated by wrist movement,” Yong said. “When Hailey’s wrist goes to a down motion, the fingers will grasp and when it goes in the up motion, the fingers release.”
While Hailey and Yong are still working with the department at UNLV and with Touro University Occupational Department to develop and fine-tune the mechanics, (Hailey is currently using Version 4 of the hand,) the students’ project has already opened up many doors for Hailey and others.
The 3-D printed version is just a fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics, costing anywhere from “$20 up to a few hundred,” according to Yong. In addition, the students’ work could help many others beyond Hailey.
“The files to create the hand (are now) available online for free,” Yong said. “The original creators of the 3-D hand wanted anyone to be able to print the hand, so they made it available for anyone to download for use. The original hand is called the Robohand. There are many versions available.”
Because of the cost-efficient aspect, the design can also be customized. When Hailey throws out the first pitch Monday, she’ll be doing so with a specially designed Orioles-themed robotic hand.
Make sure you root for Hailey as she, with an assist from her Robohand, throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the O’s face the A’s.