Jordan Reeves, a 10-year-old from Missouri, has 3D-printed a five-barrel prosthetic arm that shoots glitter wherever she goes.
The prosthetic isn't the functional kind that helps her pick up objects or hold things, but was created as part of a program to inspire and empower kids with upper-limb differences with engineering.
By connecting the kids with designers and engineers, the five-day program helped them create their own custom-made prosthetics with any functionality they could dream up. And for Reeves, that meant a whole lot of glitter.
"We started asking: 'Why are we trying to replicate the functionality of a hand?' when we could really do anything. Things that are way cooler that hands aren’t able to do," co-founder of non-profit KIDMob Kate Ganim, told The Guardian. They ran the program, called Superhero Cyborgs, with 3D software firm Autodesk.
Reeves was born with a limb difference, which means her left arm stops just above the elbow. After sketching up her dream arm, she created a 3D-printed cast of her arm and a plastic cuff made to fit comfortably over it, so that she could test different prototypes.
She then used 3D printing software to come up with different designs for her glitter cannons, and went about testing them, which "was amazing," Ganim told Fast Company. "There was glitter everywhere."
By the end of the five days, with the help of the engineers on hand, Reeve had managed to develop a prototype that actually shot out glitter with the pull of a string. She's called the design "Project Unicorn". You can see it in action below:
Obviously, the cannon's shooting power isn't at full strength just yet - the sparkles just kinda "spill out", as Reeve explains. But Project Unicorn isn't over, and Reeve has now been assigned a mentor who's going to help her over the next six months to build on her original design, with weekly video calls.
"I’ve been talking to my colleagues in electronics and materials development about ways we can create some kind of pressurised system that shoots out sparkles more effectively," Autodesk designer Sam Hobish told Fast Company.
Jordan's mum, Jen Lee Reeves, is the founder of the Born Just Right group, which highlights the interaction between the special needs community and the latest technology. Her hope is that one day 3D printing will help create more affordable, functional prosthetics for Jordan too - she's struggled to find prosthetic arms that fit in the past seeing as most of them attach at the elbow.
She admits that the glitter-shooting arm has been pretty messy around the house. "But who cares?" she says. "It’s fun and it’s exciting and it’s a really cool way to empower kids."
We couldn't agree more. Long live Project Unicorn.