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Engineering a Mean Fastball

UNLV College of Engineering teams up with a baseball-loving 7-year-old to raise awareness for a rare condition. Here's how you can be part of the team for other kids who need "Robohands."

Campus News  |  Sep 19, 2017  |  By Stacy Willis

Hailey Dawson throws a powerful fastball. Armed with her UNLV-built "Robohand," the Henderson 7-year-old has already delivered the opening pitch for the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals, and has invites to pitch by all other Major League Baseball teams.

Now, she’s preparing to throw out the first pitch Oct. 28, at the fourth game of this year’s World Series.

Due to a rare condition called Poland Syndrome, Dawson was born without a right pectoral muscle. Her right hand is missing three fingers and her thumb and pinky also are undeveloped. In 2014, when her mother Yong Dawson discovered that a typical prosthetic would cost around $20,000 and need to be replaced frequently as Hailey grew, she asked UNLV’s Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering for help.

Students and faculty first teamed up three years ago to design and produce a 3-D printed robotic hand that enabled Hailey to grab, grasp, grow, and throw. They've adapted their design as she's grown to build more hands. And now they’re helping bring national attention to solutions for other children with Poland Syndrome. 

Today UNLV’s College of Engineering faculty and students want to assist other children like Hailey grasp bicycle handles, throw balls, and create artistic works with their own Robohands. 

Each hand costs approximately $5,000. Through RebelRaiser, UNLV's official crowfunding platform, Hailey and the UNLV engineering team hope to fund materials and upgrade the laboratory and its 3-D printing capabilities.

About RebelRaiser

RebelRaiser allows the community to achieve fundraising goals through many smaller gifts online. It’s also a convenient way for UNLV students, athletes, and special interest groups to connect with the community, and for the community to participate in the variety of projects originating on campus.

While crowdfunding campaigns typically identify a deadline so that goal-setting is possible, projects like Hailey’s will renew as the research continues to progress.

Since Rebel Raiser was launched by the UNLV Foundation in November 2015, more than $273,479 has been raised through 1,521 gifts. The projects cover all walks of campus life — from sending students to dance competitions and entrepreneurship conferences around the world to securing housing for homeless UNLV students and studying air quality in the Valley.

RebelRaiser will no doubt help Hailey’s pitch have an even more powerful impact, as it has helped other projects: 

Visit the RebelRaiser site for a full list of projects.

Instagram Post: Hailey will be throwing out the first pitch before Game #4 at the World Series on Saturday, Oct 28.