NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. Jimmy Tillman doesn’t have a palm or fingers on his left hand.
But he has the ingenuity necessary to make up for it.
The 8-year-old from North Fort Myers is helping a team of FGCU bioengineering students perfect a prosthesis they produced through 3-D printing. The five-fingered green-and-black device that kids who know Jimmy call his “Hulk hand” helps him do what he couldn’t before, but it’s a work in progress.
The students are taking Jimmy’s feedback and tweaking the design in hopes of coming up with a model that can benefit him and others.
“At the end of the day, if he doesn’t have some kind of enjoyment wearing the device, I kind of failed,” student Tony Grippo said.
Jimmy told the students the fingers needed grips. He said his arm gets tired because he has to flex the hand to close it, so he suggested a lock.
“I think anytime you have a client or someone you’re designing the product for, it’s going to make the product better,” FGCU professor Dr. Derek Lura said.
Jimmy’s family doctor put the Tillmans in touch with Lura after Jimmy said he wanted to try a 3-D printed hand. That request initially took Jimmy’s mother, Tina Tillman, by surprise.
She and Jimmy’s father had always wanted him to learn to do things the way he was born, and Jimmy had success with that, even teaching himself to play baseball.
But Tina Tillman has become a believer in 3-D printing technology.
“I think it’s the future,” she said. “I think it’s quicker, it’s more efficient, it’s more cost-effective. They’ve just got to make it more durable.”
And next time, Jimmy said, they’ve got to make it camouflage-colored.