Girl Throws Opening Pitch with Help of 3D Printed Hand
BALTIMORE—August 18, 2015—Little Hailey Dawson was clearly pumped up to be meeting one of her idols, as she raised both arms to the sky in front of the crowd prior to Monday's baseball game between the Orioles and Athletics at Camden Yards here.
The 5-year-old rocked back like a softball pitcher and sent a soft delivery into the waiting hands of honorary first pitch catcher Manny Machado, who scooped the one-hopper with ease. Machado then gave Dawson a fist bump and a hug. What made the fist bump memorable is that Dawson was using a prosthetic hand created by the UNLV engineering department and output on a 3D printer.
Dawson was born with a condition called Poland Syndrome, a rare birth defect (3 in 100,000 are afflicted) that led to the underdevelopment of her right hand. She has a thumb and a pinky finger, but the remaining fingers are little more than buds (her family refers to them as "nubbins.")
UNLV engineers created the Flexy-Hand 2 and adjusted it to fit Hailey, who can use it to grip and hold objects. As her wrist moves up and down, the hand opens and closes.
Though the family hails from Las Vegas, Hailey's father, Greg, grew up in Hagerstown, Maryland. Greg's wife, Yong, had reached out to the Orioles about having her daughter throw out a ceremonial first pitch. The team immediately embraced the idea.
The Dawson family arranged for the UNLV engineer team to create an Orioles version of the prosthetic, which included the team's mascot and colors. Several players, including Machado, autographed the hand.
Yong Dawson told MLB.com that the experience was also about raising awareness. "Ultimately, the goal is not just to have her dream come true, but to expose the hand and that people can get this hand," she said. "And it's available to anybody. It's so easy, so cheap … I just wanted it to be out there, that, 'Hey, you can get this.' "
A traditional prosthetic limb can cost thousands of dollars, but the configuration for the Flexy-Hand 2 can be downloaded for free, courtesy of the UNLV engineering team. Since Hailey is only 5, she will need to change hands frequently as she grows older, making the 3D-replicated prosthesis a heart-felt gift.