In 2011 – a costume prop maker from Bellingham Wa, USA got an email from a South African carpenter that had recently lost 4 of his fingers on his prominent hand, who had seen his Youtube video of a large prop mechanical hand device he had made for a Steampunk convention…and he had a simple question: “Have you ever thought about making real fingers for people?”

And a seed was planted.

Over the next year, the prop maker helped the carpenter with design ideas, working on prototypes and creating new versions of the designs.
He wanted to help – simply for the sake of helping a perfect stranger with a need.

The seed was watered.

Once the two men had gotten a functioning prototype – the carpenter started a Facebook page about their creation and not long after, a mother contacted him and asked if they would consider making a whole hand for her little boy who was born with no fingers.

The seed  was sprouting.

The prop maker took his original mechanical hand design that had led the carpenter to find him on Youtube – and created a tiny version of those fingers and through the kindness of strangers, was able to fly to South Africa  – to meet the carpenter and the child and help create a functioning metal prosthetic hand device.

When it was finished and placed on the little boy and he moved his wrist and his new set of fingers closed around an object – he looked up and exclaimed, “It copies me!”

The sapling was born.

The prop maker and the carpenter realized that this thing they had done together…could change the lives of hundreds…maybe even thousands of other children (and adults.)

Two 3d printers were donated to them and the prop maker immediately started scripting their design and together they agreed that this thing they had created – should be shared freely with the World…so that those that need them could make one for themselves or so that others could help create them for those that are unable to do so.

They decided not to patent the design.
They uploaded it on the internet and gave it away for free.

The roots were strengthening.

The media swarmed them and the word started spreading about a prop maker and a carpenter that came together from 10,000 miles apart to make a 3d printed mechanical hand for a 5 year old boy born with no fingers – and that they did it without asking anything in return.

People from around the globe started asking how they could help.

Others with 3d printers – offered to print hands and ship them to those that had no access to a printer themselves. People started tinkering with the design and improving it and they too started giving their design modifications away for free.

Jon Shull started the original E-Nable Group on Google+ consisting of other Makers with 3d printers who wanted to help and set up the E-Nable map – so that people who had 3d printers and wanted to help create parts for hands for people – could sign up and list themselves for those that needed hands created or parts designed – to  find them.

The Branches were growing.

The prop maker and the carpenter eventually grew in different directions but their branches are both strong and thriving – and both are equally beautiful.

The prop maker’s branch has grown may fingers and he continues to branch out and use his ideas to help create other inventions that may help many others, not just with prosthetics – but in other areas of the medical field.

Jon Shull’s branch now has  many fingers   – engineers, tinkerers, OT’s, physicians, college professors, high school classes, 3d printing enthusiasts and many other great minds – who are continuing to improve the original design and help others who want to make these devices on their own or for others that need them.  They are focused on teaching and guiding others how to make these and encouraging others to do the same.

The carpenter’s branch has also grown many fingers, as he has created many beautifully crafted hands for people and has reached out across the globe to set up offices in South Africa, the USA and Australia – where his version of the device or a kit he has put together – can be purchased for a fee for materials, shipping costs and his time spent creating them for people.

Now – all of the fingers of this tree are spreading and growing and new news stories are popping up every day of parents who are creating these hands for and with their child,   images of smiling children receiving hands from classes of high school students who are creating them as a class project to give away are showing up on Facebook…groups of engineering students and occupational therapists who have created their own version and are fitting them to people in their communities and so much more!

People are getting inspired – not just to create free hands for those who need them…but they are searching out ways to use the gifts they were given – to change other’s lives and they are doing it because it feels good…and because it is forming a new revolution…restoring faith in humanity and giving people hope that there really are people out there that care more about helping their neighbors, than making a profit.

This Tree is beautiful and it is thriving and it is growing stronger every day.

Water. It.
Watch. It. Grow.

16 thoughts on “OUR “GIVING” TREE

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  14. Dave Lewis Reply

    Folks, 3D Systems reached out to us about partnering up with you. I’m the CTO for r-Labs which, with support from Avi, Cathy and 3D Systems has been bringing 3D Printing to public school students for the last 10 semesters here in San Jose.

    We are getting ready for a weekend of teaching at Stanford (Spring Splash) in April the STEaM Fest and MakerFaire in May. We are currently running a broad range of printers in the lab (13 of them) and have previously printed a hand using one of the Thingyverse patterns.

    You have a great vision and my students are excited about it. Give me a shout and lets make something happen.

  15. Joanne Reply

    This is so worthwhile. Love the way the technology is used for such a good purpose.

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