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Sculpting Real Helping Hands

Tech Center Students Use Technology to Help Five-year-old


A trio of Kent Career Tech Center 3D Animation students from Comstock Park and Sparta high schools recently had the opportunity to turn their class project into a life-changing helping hand – two of them in fact.

Five-year-old Baylee Sherman of Wyoming was born with amniotic band syndrome, which bound some of her fingers and stunted the growth of others. With functional thumbs, she needed something to connect them to.

Tech Center instructor Richard Vandermey talks with Fox 17’s Erica Francis
Tech Center instructor Richard Vandermey talks with Fox 17’s Erica Francis

Local television station Fox 17 aired Baylee’s request for prosthetic gloves in March, and when Tech Center instructor Richard Vandermey heard about it, he knew he could help. Through a sponsorship with the 3D printer company Print Right, Vandermey has long been using the technology to build prosthetics for those in Asia who need them.

He thought some of his students might want to use their 3D skills to assist, so he enlisted three of them to help design and build Baylee a pair of hands. A crew from Fox 17 joined them as they measured her hands to find the perfect fit for custom, glove-like prosthetics inspired by the movie “Frozen,” at Baylee’s request.

Comstock Park High School senior Alexis Jendrasiak and Sparta High seniors Dylan Avellaneda and Mallory Kennedy said they never envisioned how what they learned in 3D animation class could be used in other areas.

Their initial interest in the program was much simpler, they admitted: video games.

“I thought I’d have to be older to make a person’s life different,” Dylan said. “You don’t have to be an adult or have a full-time job to make a difference in the community.”

Alexis said she has an interest in the medical field, but now realizes she can help people no matter which path she chooses.

Vandermey said he tries to help students understand the range of opportunities that exist in the field.

“This is a real-world application for them,” he said. “One of the things I try to emphasize during the class is that there’s more than just games and movies in need of 3D artists. There’s a lot of things you can do with these skills if you think outside the box.”

He also partners with Enabling the Future, a volunteer-based 3D printing company that helps build and supply prosthetics around the world.

Sparta senior Dylan Avellaneda helps Baylee measure her hands
Sparta senior Dylan Avellaneda helps Baylee measure her hands

Because of his partnership, Baylee will receive two sets of hands, free of charge.

Mallory, who has been building a virtual world and characters, said helping Baylee has made her realize how much joy the art of animation can bring to people.

“I thought ‘hey, if I can help a little girl, that would be a very big accomplishment for me,'” she said. “And to see her grow up and do whatever she wants, because of those hands, is just awesome.”

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