College Lab Makes 3D Printed Arms

12-year-old Aubrey Sauvie never let her lack of hands stop her from pursuing Tae Kwon Do, art, or doing her own makeup.

Born a triple congenital amputee and missing both arms from below the elbows and several toes on one foot, Aubrey quickly showed her family she didn’t need much accommodation. “It’s just one part of me,” Aubrey told WKRN. “It doesn’t define me. Learning was a challenge, but over time it became easier.”

Aubrey’s family album is full of pictures of her in dance competitions, breaking boards with a flying side-kick, and playing snare drum in her school band with drumsticks in her elbow creases. But playing the snare didn’t produce the sound she wanted. Her middle school band teacher suggested she join the Tennessee Tech University program, Engineering for Kids, where 10 students made it their project to create custom prosthetics for her to play the drums.

The students designed a 3D-printed pair of durable, flexible prosthetics with interchangeable grips. Tennessee Tech Professor of Mechanical Engineering Stephen Canfield called it a one-in-a-million shot. The students spent the semester taking measurements and testing prototypes. Their hard work paid off, surprising them and delighting Aubrey.

Now, Aubrey enjoys the proper snap of a snare hit and dreams of playing a full drum kit.

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