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Young drummer, aged 12 and lacking hands, receives transformative present from Tennessee Tech engineering students.

A 12-year-old middle school student from Tennessee, Aubrey Sauvie-born without hands, asserts her ability to play her drums with equal force and speed as any other drummer.

Tennessee Tech engineering students present Aubrey Sauvie, 12, center, with new prosthetic...
Tennessee Tech engineering students present Aubrey Sauvie, 12, center, with new prosthetic 3D-printed hands.

Young drummer, aged 12 and lacking hands, receives transformative present from Tennessee Tech engineering students.

A group of dedicated college engineering students, hailing from Tennessee Technological University, crafted a unique pair of 3D-printed hands as a gift for a promising young drummer named Aubrey. This extraordinary device was made during their dynamics of machinery class, tailored specifically for Aubrey who was born missing parts of her arms below the elbows, as well as a partially amputated left foot.

These innovative prosthetics have transformed Aubrey's life, allowing her to pursue drumming after being inspired by her elder sister who plays percussion. Prior to these new assistive devices, she'd been struggling with managing drumsticks, having to put them into her sleeves and hold them in the crease of her elbows.

The difference is noticeable, Aubrey shared, as these prosthetics ensure stability and stay put, regardless of the volume or speed of her playing. Her band director came across a program at Tennessee Tech called Tech Engineering for Kids and reached out to Stephen Canfield, an engineering professor who oversees the initiative.

This program, run by Canfield's junior-level engineering course, sees students design and fabricate custom assistive technology for children with special needs in the Middle Tennessee region. They work together as teams to bring ideas to fruition over the semester.

Canfield collaborates with medical professionals, therapists, care coordinators, and specialists in the area who help identify a child with specific needs. He then pairs them with a student group that will conceptualize the technology required, manufacture it, test it, and ultimately hand it over to the family.

In the past, Aubrey had used a Hero myoelectric 3D printed arm, but it was less suitable for drumming as she only had the one and there was a significant length disparity when attempting to play drums. Aubrey's new prosthetics are highly versatile, with the ability to accommodate various activities, not just drumming.

Aubrey Sauvie is pictured as a baby wearing her first prosthetic arm.

Tennessee Tech students worked closely with Aubrey throughout the semester to perfect the fit and functionality of the prosthetic arms. They'd present their designs to Aubrey, who would offer valuable feedback regarding length, structure, or room for improvement in terms of comfort. The team made several modifications to the design based on Aubrey's feedback until they achieved the optimal final product.

Aubrey was initially skeptical about whether the 3D printed hands would work for her, but found them to be extremely useful and beneficial to her drumming. Aubrey aspires to become an ultrasound technician in the future and is excited about how these new devices will assist her in her musical endeavors.

Jennifer Sauvie, Aubrey's mother, was aware of her limb difference during pregnancy, which understandably brought fear and uncertainty. However, faced with Aubrey's incredible determination and unique spirit, she shared that the experience would have been more joyful and fulfilling if she'd known then what she knows now. Aubrey has participated in a variety of activities such as dance, taekwondo, art, and music, and continues to thrive despite her limitations.

According to the team that worked closely with Aubrey, she serves as an inspiration for others, tackling challenges with unwavering resolve. Micah Page, a mechanical engineering student at Tennessee Tech, expressed his admiration for her resilience, mentioning that watching her navigate through life without hands is truly amazing. The custom-made prosthetics are expected to last for several years before Aubrey outgrows them.

Aubrey Sauvie, who was born with no hands and a partially amputated left foot, breaks boards for her second-degree black belt in taekwondo.

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The transformation in Aubrey's drumming abilities has significantly improved due to the custom-made prosthetics from Tennessee Tech students, making it easier for her to manage drumsticks and maintain stability. Consequently, Aubrey's band director was impressed and expressed gratitude towards the Tech Engineering for Kids program and Stephen Canfield for their contribution to her musical journey.

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