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3-year-old receives new hand thanks to students

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    Cameron Haas, 3, of Wauseon, receives a prosthetic hand built by a group of Northwest State Community College STEM students in Archbold, Ohio. Haas checks out his prosthetic hand after fist bumping with Colin Doolittle, a member of the Engineering faculty, on Tuesday.

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    Cameron Haas' prosthetic hand. The 3-year-old chose the colors, and a group of Northwest State Community College STEM students built it.

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    Grandfather Gregory Haas, left, holds his grandson Cameron who is wearing his prosthetic hand, built by a group of Northwest State Community College STEM students in Archbold, Ohio.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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ARCHBOLD, Ohio — When 3-year-old Cameron Haas saw his new hand for the first time, his face swelled with happiness.

He slid his arm into the hand, contorting his face as he worked to open and close it with the flexion of his wrist.

“Now I’ll be able to hold the swing with both hands and swing higher,” Cameron said.

WATCH: 3-year-old Cameron Haas gets his new hand

After building and adjusting Cameron’s 3-D printed hand for nearly a month, a team of students and faculty at Northwest State Community College presented Cameron his new hand Tuesday afternoon.

His nub fits into the middle of the hand and two Velcro straps are fastened around his forearm. It’s like putting on a glove.

Despite missing his right hand, Cameron’s never known a world with limitations.

Like other children his age, he enjoys playing hide-and-seek, eating chocolate chip cookies, watching cartoons when he comes home from daycare, and playing his favorite board game — Candy Land.

His grandfather, Gregory Haas, remembers playing with Cameron in their yard, and Cameron looking up at him and saying, “Pops, you need a nub like mine.”

“He thought what he had was better than my hand,” Mr. Haas said. “He’s very active, and he can do all sorts of things without it. Now with the hand I want to see how much more he can do with it.”

What started as an idea came to fruition when Cameron’s grandmother, Sabrina Haas, a nursing student at Northwest State, went to the STEM department there to see if they could make a 3-D printed hand. Over the course of the next month, Colin Doolittle, an engineering professor at the college and a team of six students, worked diligently to build a customized hand for Cameron. The 3-D printed hand weighs less than a pound and cost roughly $70 to construct out of the same plastic used to make car bumpers.

On this Tuesday afternoon, Cameron tested the final version of his hand, the one he’s about to take home.

He’s giving high-fives and fist bumps, but he’s still working on a firm handshake.

As he flexes and relaxes his wrist, the red fingers attached to his black hand curl and uncurl.

It will take him some time for him to get used to his new hand.

When Cameron outgrows it in a year or two, a replacement can be made easily, Mr. Doolittle said. A normal prosthetic hand typically costs tens of thousands of dollars, but this design is cost-effective, he said.

This project not only changed Cameron’s life, but also touched the students who helped to construct it.

“It’s amazing to see the affects this is going to have on Cameron and how excited he is for it, and the fact that we did this and we accomplished this to be able to change his life,” said Miranda Merschdorf, 20, one of the students who worked on the project.

When Brandon Allen, 26, one of the students who helped build Cameron’s hand, enrolled at Northwest State, he never imagined he could make such an immediate impact.

“When I came here they told me I could change the world,” he said. “And we’ve had the ability to change this little boy’s life. ... It’s a beautiful thing.”

Contact Javonte Anderson at janderson@theblade.com419-724-6065, or on Twitter @JavonteA.

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