Neriah Rhodes from Florida is a five-year-old girl and she already has big dreams. She always wanted to play the violin, but because she only has one hand, there’s just no way that she could even hold the bow and practice.
Even though certain attachments exist that would allow her to hold the bow, she couldn’t use those for more than a couple of minutes at a time because the grip loosened severely when Neriah applied a moderate amount of pressure.
Luckily, Neriah’s story came to the attention of biomedical engineering student Drew Miles from LeTourneau University.
Drew first came across Neriah’s story because of a school assignment. A violin instructor from Florida asked the engineering students from the university if they would like to design a device to help Neriah play the violin. Thanks to recent developments in 3D printing technologies, building these custom devices have been easier and more accessible than ever before.
The young man was under the impression that plenty of his peers would volunteer to help Neriah, but he was surprised to learn that he was the only one that wanted to handle this project.
“I then found out I was the only person doing the project,” the engineering student told KSLA.
Overwhelmed by the responsibility, he prayed and was determined to help Neriah make her dreams come true.
“I like to think of God as an engineer, and engineers use tools.”
He spent hours and hours trying to design and engineer a perfect tool that would allow her to play the violin, and after seven months of hard work and prototyping, the first version was ready. He estimated that the product would be ready within three months, but didn’t mind continuing to work on it until it was absolutely perfect.
Drew also regularly exchanged thoughts with his professor Dr. Ko Sasaki to make sure that the device would fit Neriah’s needs perfectly.
“We designed it to where it could be donned with one hand.”
It took no less than fifteen different prototypes until the violin attachment was usable because the design had to be fairly pliable. Drew also designed a version that is stiffer, but that one isn’t as comfortable to use.
The little five-year-old Neriah tested a couple of these prototypes out, and when the final version was ready she was able to pick her favorite color for the 3D-printed material, pink.
Neriah’s mom Elizabeth Rhodes says that the device greatly changed her daughter’s life.
“Independence,” Elizabeth told when asked what the violin attachment did for her daughter. “She wasn’t needing anybody to help her and it was pretty incredible.”
Even though Drew never met little Neriah in real life, he’s overjoyed that this little girl is finally able to play the violin. He’s noticeably touched when he says the girl playing for the very first time thanks to his invention.
“We could not thank you enough in words for what you’ve done for Neriah, who you’ve never met, and you probably will never meet her. And we get to benefit from your hard work and we are incredibly grateful for you,” Elizabeth said.
Drew gladly and selflessly provided his 3D-printed design to the Neriah’s family for free and is just glad that he was able to help.
What an amazing act of kindness!
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