At Tarleton State University, you can print a prototype for a customized orthotic to help a stroke victim strengthen his hand. That’s what one student did. The recipient—Clarence Young—got the real deal last week.

A 3-D, poster-size printer in the new Maker Spot on the upper level of Tarleton’s Dick Smith Library enabled Christina Tocquigny to fashion the specially designed brace. It will help stretch Clarence’s fingers during personalized workouts at the university’s Lab for Wellness and Motor Behavior (LWMB).

Tocquigny, a digital media studies graduate from Moran, Texas, volunteered to tackle the project as a hands-on learning experience after an appeal was made to her art class this past spring. She has a heart for individuals with physical disabilities and a mind that grasps the enduring relationship of art, science and technology.

“Think Leonardo da Vinci,” Tocquigny explained. “An artist and scientist, he studied physiology and anatomy to create convincing images of the human form. Combining my artistic and creative talents with what I’ve learned in the classroom and the technology available in the Maker Spot brings the best of all worlds together to help someone in need.”

When the Maker Spot went live earlier this year, library officials had a good idea that students, faculty, staff—even community patrons—would use the 3-D equipment, action cameras and invention kits to create everything from keychains to custom-made, alphabet-soup keyboards.

No one figured on a well-fitted device to make life better for a longtime Stephenville plumber.

Clarence suffered a stroke about three years ago and shows up at Tarleton’s wellness lab weekdays for a workout with kinesiology graduate students Bailee Mauldin from Haslet, Texas, and Elizabeth Cisneros from Kaufman, Texas. The duo worked with Christina to create the prototype for Clarence’s customized orthotic brace.

“The Maker Spot is much more than a print lab,” said Chris Grantham, a technology support specialist at the Tarleton library. “It allows inventors to turn thoughts and ideas into useable products and prototypes. Maker Spot capability is limited strictly by imagination.”

The larger of the 3-D printers produces “plastic” items up to 9 inches by 9 inches by 20 inches—like a 14-inch propeller for a model airplane, or a device for a stroke patient.

The cost to print a 3-D project in any of 16 available colors is 10 cents per gram of filament—a plastic called ABS made from petroleum (like LEGO® sets). That means that Clarence’s new brace will cost far less than it would from a medical supply shop.