High school project turns into a necessity three decades later

MEDFORD, Ore. — At 17 years old, Ian Davis built what people called, ‘A Hand in the Future.”

“In 1992 at South Medford High School, I designed and developed a fully ambulatory robotic arm using Mio electronics,” Davis said.

At the time, the creation was just for a school project. He never thought something that he created in his teen years would be something he would need in his adult years.

“You don’t realize how much you take your hands for granted and then when you don’t have [it], it really affects your attitude,” Davis said.

In October 2017, Davis was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and given less than a year to live. His cancer, which he calls “a huge sack of suck,” is a kind that weakens the immune system and makes it easier for bones to break.

“In last November, I had an accident at my shop where I broke a couple of bones in my hand and because I have multiple myeloma, I’m severely compromised in my immune system,” Davis said. “It went from getting pins [in my hand] to, ‘you’re not healing,’ to a bone infection, blood infection, septicemia, to, ‘you’re going to die.'”

In order to save his life, doctors had to amputate four fingers on his dominant hand.

Since Davis is an engineer, that was hard for him to grasp.

“I’ve been a maker for forever, a long time. Then all of a sudden you can’t do that anymore,” Davis said. “The cancer was a career-ender, and this just put the icing on the cake, career, ender.”

Davis wasn’t going to let his amputation stop him. He went straight to work, even while he was in the hospital.

“In January, when I was still in the hospital I started designing a prosthetic hand. It was kind of my day job. That’s what I used to maintain my sanity.”

Davis had his fingers amputated in January and by March he was using his first robotic hand.

“The first time that I was able to pick stuff up again, it’s magical.”

Since his amputation, he’s continued to redesign and recreate new hands to make them better than before.

He hopes to get his creations in the hands of developers so he can make it cheaper and easier to get for others who are in a similar situation he is.

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