Bubar Lends a Hand to People in Need

As an astronomer, Dr. Eric Bubar studies stars and teaches Marymount University students about the cosmos. He loves his work but was looking for a project that was a little more down to earth.

    “I wanted to do something that would help people,” the assistant professor of physical sciences says.

    That’s when he discovered Enabling the Future, a global network of volunteers that uses 3D printers to create free prosthetic hands and arms for those in need. Getting involved with the group fit perfectly with Marymount’s commitment to service.

    And that service is global. In addition to a teenager from Northern Virginia who received a hand just in time for Christmas, recent beneficiaries include a child in Costa Rica and a boy in Uganda who received a prosthetic lower arm.

    “I love astronomy, but this has a big impact,” says Bubar, whose doctorate is in applied physics. “It’s nice to know that at Marymount I’m encouraged to do this and am being provided the resources to really make a difference.”

    Bubar has been printing the prosthetic hands with an open source design shared by Enabling the Future. Bubar and his students print about 20 hands a semester.

    Printing time for the hand given as a Christmas present, which consisted of about 35 pieces, was around 20 hours, split over two days. The 3D printer cost $600, Bubar says, adding that the materials used in the hand –screws, plastic, fishing line and dental rubber bands – cost between $30 and $40. A state-of-the-art electric hand can cost around $10,000. The hands made through Enabling the Future move through leverage from the wrist or elbow.

    Bubar’s Marymount students began printing hands as a class project.

    “Once they read about Enabling the Future, they started printing extra hands to help more people,” the professor says. “They also told their friends.”

    Now Bubar has students he doesn’t even know approaching him, asking if they can get involved. He’s happy to oblige.