St. Louis high school student Robbie Frei has used 3D printing technology to build a custom-made robotic arm for his dad, who was injured while stationed in Iraq. Frei first came up with the idea when he realized his dad’s injury meant they could no longer play video games together, something they’d always bonded over. So banking on his robot-building skills the young inventor applied his know-how to create a Nintendo Switch video console that allowed his dad to start gaming again.
“When my dad was injured in the Marines he wasn’t able to play video games with us for about 10 years, and after I created that 3D printed adapter he was able to play with us full speed,” Frei said in a recent interview.
According to Frei, the arm took about three months to make. He was able to create the custom-scanned prosthetic by using his dad’s left hand and then mirroring it to create the new robotic right hand. And while the prosthetic was initially created to help Robbie’s dad play video games, there was an added bonus: He is now also able to throw a ball using his robotic arm.
Unsurprisingly, Frei is planning to further his skills by studying robotics in college and is already a National Merit finalist. Derek Ward, Robbie’s robotic advisor, was not surprised that he was able to make something this impressive at such a young age.
“He knows how to get projects done and comes up with amazing things,” said Ward. “He’s been on the robotics team for six years now. So, just to watch him go from a seventh-grader to a 12th-grader, (I’m) not surprised he can pull something like this off.”