Marymount Student Group Honored With “Maker of Merit” Award

For the second year in a row, Marymount University’s chapter of Enable the Future received a “Maker of Merit Award” from the Maker Faire in Silver Springs, Maryland. The chapter, which creates 3D-printed prosthetic hands and arms for people in need, was recognized for having a project that is unique, innovative and useful.

The 2016 Maker Faire was held Sept. 25 at the Silver Spring Convention Center. Presented by KID Museum in Montgomery County, Maryland, the event featured displays of art, science, technology, craft and engineering with the goal of inspiring the next generation of innovators. The “do-it-yourself” fair let children and adults participate in Maker projects and demonstrations.

Dr. Eric Bubar, an assistant professor of biology & physical sciences at Marymount, and six of his students manned a booth at the faire that demonstrated the chapter’s work. In the past few years, Bubar and his charges have made 60 functional prosthetic hands, which operate based on wrist movement. Many go to the global organization Enable the Future for distribution, but the MU volunteers have also made custom hands for teenagers in Northern Virginia and children in Uganda, Costa Rica and Palestine.

“In addition to doing a lot of good for people, it’s helped drive student interest in science and technology,” said Bubar.

In the past year, more than 100 Marymount students from 16 different majors have volunteered to work on the hands and arms. A third of them are science and math majors.

“The more we do this, the fancier and more realistic our designs are getting,” Bubar said.

He’s currently replacing a cosmetic hand for an adult in Northern Virginia whose insurance won’t pay for it and working on an Iron Man-themed, functional hand for a child who is missing three fingers.

“Kids really love the super hero hands,” he said, noting that they’re willing to show them off instead of hiding the fact that they have a prosthetic hand.

Bubar has visited schools to explain the technology and to help them set up printers. He’s also willing to give tours of his lab and help area residents buy printers so they can get involved.

“I just want to spread the word so that people know we can do this,” Bubar said.

Photo caption
Jennifer Chan, a senior biology major who volunteers in the Enable the Future lab at Marymount University, shows off some of its work. The hand on the left is a cosmetic prosthetic hand that has worn out, and the one on the right, with the Maker of Merit ribbon, is a 3D-printed replacement.