AMS Spring 2023

Pretty in Pink: Young Violinist Relies on New 3D Printed Prosthetic

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Everyone should have the opportunity to make music. This is a skill that not only offers the same happiness we feel in listening, but also challenges and stimulates the brain. The violin is known to be one of the more challenging instruments to play, and children are often started off at an early age. They receive not only an intellectual workout, but also a physical one as their upper body strength is put to the test (especially at first) as they hold the violin on the shoulder and then use the other hand and arm to manipulate the bow. Anyone learning to play will probably find that both their memory and focus become sharper.

Discipline, fortitude, and will are all required in learning to master such an instrument. Obviously, Isabella Nicola Cabrera, age ten, has all these traits—along with the students from George Mason University who decided to make her a 3D printed prosthetic so she could play her violin. George Mason, located in Fairfax, VA, boasts a progressive bioengineering department. There, they use tools meant to bring together the worlds of both biology and medicine, with Cabrera’s prosthetic serving as a prime example of what engineering can do in creating a medical device.

Five bioengineering students worked on the project for Cabrera, who was born with her left arm incomplete. The goal was to help her gain better control of the bow—and they got creative with materials and colors, 3D printing the prosthetic in pink.

“I’m very, very grateful,” says Cabrera. “Without these people, I don’t think I could be able to play my violin. I don’t think I could be able to play any instrument.”

The students worked with her for a year in creating and then refining the prosthetic. The team reported that Cabrera was great to work with because she was so quick to offer feedback. They made adjustments after the first model to offer greater comfort and more control for the young—and obviously quite talented—violinist. The prosthetic has four parts: the forearm, upper arm, bow holder, and metal rod. The bow holder is crucial in that it allows for 360-degree rotation, and stability.

In using the second iteration, with more control, she is better able to press down on the notes, and she states that indeed she does love the color too. Cabrera indicates that she may have interest in learning to play other instruments in the future. She has been working with violin teacher Elizabeth Adams from George Mason. Cabrera had not only support from the bioengineering students, and her teacher, but also her mother who remarks on how much she has been able to accomplish, with a great support system encouraging her along the way.

“I’ve always had perseverance in myself,” says Cabrera. “Giving up has just never been a thought in my mind.”

Discuss in the Violinist forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: WTOP; Images: AP/Steve Helber]

 

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