Seven-year old Hailey Dawson will throw the opening pitch of Game 4 of the World Series in Houston on Saturday using a 3-D printed robotic-hand made by Eden Prairie-based Stratasys and the University of Nevada/Las Vegas (UNLV).

Dawson was born with Poland syndrome, a rare birth defeat resulting in the absence of three middle fingers on one of her hands. 

The University of Nevada's Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering agreed to take on the project of building Dawson a new hand, a feat that is typically reserved for much older children.

Using 3-D printing machines made by Stratasys, UNLV’s Mechanical Engineering Department Chairman Brendan O’Toole and his team first began working with Dawson in 2014. 

“The project combines mechanics and robotics, and we get the added bonus of helping someone,” O’Toole said. 

O'Toole and his engineering students eventually built Dawson several customized hands, including ones she began using for baseball games.

In 2015, Hailey threw her first opening pitch at a UNLV Rebels baseball game. That led Dawson to create a goal to open one game for each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams. Now she is set to throw out the first pitch when the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros battle  for glory Saturday. 

Dawson's goal of first-pitching other MLB games has O'Toole and his team working harder. 

“The current hand design is good, but we’re looking at ways to improve it,” O’Toole said. “One student is designing a more optimal, more functional thumb with improved dexterity and gripping power. Another student is working on a way to make the individual fingers flex more independently. And a third student is researching ways the device could be motorized."

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