These Amazing Prosthetic Hands Were Built By High School Students

Ask a bunch of kids to design technology for disabled people their age and you get an entirely different kind of creative thinking, from a “Swiss Army Hand” to a functional baseball glove.

High school students at the NuVu Studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts, don’t go to classes and aren’t graded on a curve. Their only real job, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, is to create something new–and thus learn in a different way.


“It’s not about the regular subjects and the one-hour schedule that makes it hard for people to dig deeper,” says Saeed Arida, NuVu’s founder and “chief excitement officer.” “They get a completely different perspective on college, and what they want to do.”

NuVu is an “innovation center” for under-18s that takes 35 students at a time. Twenty of those come from Beaver Country Day School, a founding partner. The rest are from other public and charter schools nearby. Every two weeks, faculty from M.I.T. and elsewhere come in to help the kids work on a new problem or project. This can range from telepresence robots to futuristic headwear.

The theme this winter has been “hacking health.” For example, the students have worked on ideas for prosthetic hands, riffing off templates from the MakerBot Robohand project. They’re not really hands in the conventional sense: more like bodily attachments with certain uses in mind. There’s this two-fingered device that fits into a baseball glove. There’s a “Ratchet Hand,” which has a cylinder for pencil, Sharpie, brush, knife and fork. And don’t forget the Swiss Army Hand, with its Wolverine claws.

The students are getting input from e-Nable, a community group for DIY prosthetics. The baseball hand is particularly popular with parents of disabled kids, Arida says.

“The feedback we’re getting is they don’t necessarily just want a hand,” he says. “These kids don’t have a hand from the beginning, so they can have something that is different. This is pushing prosthetics into a direction that’s not necessarily literal.”

We’ve covered several 3-D-printed prosthetics projects, including this $5 effort. But NuVu’s could be our favorite. Let’s hope the students keep working on them.


About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.