Music always has been part of Tate Simmons’ life.
The fifth-grader at Worthington’s Wilson Hill Elementary School usually is singing, beat boxing or tapping out rhythms, said his mother, Patti Simmons.
A guitar player for 2 1/2 years, Tate, 11, tried piano before deciding he wanted to join Wilson Hill’s orchestra and play cello.
But for the Simmons family, it’s not as easy as buying or renting the instrument and signing Tate up for lessons.
Tate was born with his right arm ending at his wrist.
He is able to play his guitar without a prosthetic device, but he needs a prosthesis to hold a cello bow, Simmons said.
Enter Aaron Westbrook, an 18-year-old New Albany High School graduate who at age 15 founded Form5 Prosthetics Inc. with the goal of creating environmentally friendly, 3-D-printed prosthetics from recycled materials.
Westbrook, who was born without a hand and wrist on his right arm, taught himself how to make 3-D-printed prosthetic devices when he was a sophomore. He now is a freshman studying ecofriendly digital fabrication at Antioch College in Yellow Springs.
Westbrook said he knew Simmons and her son for five years through the Nub Club of Central Ohio, a community group Simmons created for families with children who have residual limbs.
This summer, Simmons contacted Westbrook to see if he could print a prosthesis for Tate so he could join orchestra, and he readily agreed.
Westbrook said he made the prosthesis at his home using filament and his 3-D printer. He printed three models to ensure sizing was appropriate.
The device cost less than $15 in plastic material to make, he said.
Westbrook said he used an open-source design via thingiverse.com; it was provided by e-Nable, a nonprofit organization that provides plans for 3-D-printed prosthetics.
“It was a quick turnaround,” he said.
Westbrook met with Tate on Sept. 25 at Wilson Hill, where Tate was able to try out his new prosthesis with the cello for the first time.
Because he plays guitar, Tate said, he already knows the fingering technique needed for both instruments. At 7 years old, he decided he wanted to play the guitar after watching videos of people playing online, but he was motivated to try the cello by a friend who lives down the street, he said.
“He encouraged me to play it,” he said.
Abigail McGreehan, orchestra director for grades 5-12 at Brookside, Wilson Hill and Worthington Hills elementary schools, has been working with Tate and other orchestra students to prepare them for their first large performance Dec. 12 at Thomas Worthington High School.
What struck her the most about Tate, McGreehan said, is how he acts like everyone else in her class and didn’t draw attention to his residual limb.
“He didn’t make a big deal; he didn’t complain,” she said.
Although the family could have gone through their insurance provider and worked with a prosthetist to help Tate use his cello, Simmons said, she was familiar with Westbrook’s other printed prosthetic devices and understood the capabilities of 3-D printing. For example, in 2016, Westbrook created a 3-D-printed prosthetic arm for Maddie Horvath, a first-grader at Scioto Ridge Elementary School in Powell.
She also thought it was helpful to show Tate he doesn’t need to work with a prosthetist to get what he needs, she said.
“I think it’s really cool for kids like Tate to see that they can solve their own problems,” Simmons said.
Although most people with upper congenital limb loss don’t use a prosthesis all the time, Tate already has plans for his next device, Simmons said.
“He wants a pushup arm next,” she said.