9 year old with cerebral palsy can now play viola thanks to some impressive engineering

29 January 2018, 17:09

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

A 9-year-old girl with cerebral palsy is now able to play the viola, thanks to three young engineering students who designed a special brace for her bowing hand.

Rayne Mason-Smith is in her fourth year at Lancashire Elementary School, Delaware. And she wants to fulfil her dream of playing in her school orchestra.

“I love music. I always wanted to play an instrument,” Rayne told Action News. But because of her cerebral palsy, she finds it difficult to hold the bow of her viola.

When Julia Weeks, Hannah Kennedy and Antonio Carvalho, three engineering students from Concord High School, heard about Rayne’s condition, they decided to create a brace to help her play her instrument.

“She was having difficulty grabbing the bow,” Antonio Carvalho told WDEL last year. He said he hoped the new invention would help Rayne feel more confident around her fellow students. “It just seemed really important to us that we could help her, and it just seemed like something easy we could accomplish.”

Although Julia, Hannah and Antonio cannot play musical instruments, Rayne’s teacher, Nicole Veater, helped them understand the workings of the viola. Then they had to find out exactly what Rayne needed to help her play the viola.

“All of the motion for bowing has to come from the elbow,” Veater said. “So, when we realized that was what gives her trouble, we realized we needed to figure out something else.”

The three students created a few prototypes using a stress ball, nuts, bolts, wood, metal, Velcro and duct tape. They also created a guide that fits on to the viola to help the bow’s alignment.

The final design has allowed Rayne to comfortably play with her bowing arm, so she now feels more confident at school. “This is making a huge difference in her life, and she feels like a superstar,” said her teacher.

“She’s on track with all the other students.”

“It really just makes us happy to see that smile on her face when she finally gets a great note out,” said student Antonio.

Watch the full video at Action News.