Students design hand brace to help 4th grader play viola

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Students design hand brace to help 4th grader play viola. Monica Malpass reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on January 26, 2018. (WPVI)

A 4th grader with cerebral palsy is closer to her dream of playing the viola.

And her helpers are 3 local engineering students who've never even picked up an instrument.

"I love music. I always wanted to play an instrument," said Rayne Mason-Smith.

Rayne doesn't want to just listen to music - she wants to make it.

But cerebral palsy makes holding the bow of her viola difficult.

Since fall, a trio of engineering students from Concord High School has been designing and manufacturing a brace to give Rayne just the right grip.

Julia Weeks says the first step was pretty basic, understanding how to make music.

Hannah Kennedy said, "None of us play any instruments."

Once they learned that, they focused on Rayne's specific challenge.

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

For Julia, Hannah Kennedy, and Antonio Carvalho, it's been a careful process of designing and testing prototypes again and again, moving a little further each time.

In addition to the hand brace, they've also created a guide, to limit the bow's horizontal angle, encouraging a better grip.

All the testing and changing hasn't slowed Rayne's musical progress.

"She's on track with all the other students," Nicole said.

Rayne added, "It's easier for me to play."

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

Concord's engineering teacher enlists unique projects like this from the public.

The students say solving these real-world problems means much more to them than just getting a grade.

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