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Student-Created Device Helps Young Violinist

January 2022

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering

Two young adults and a young girl holding a violin.BYU student Joshua Vanderpool, left, created a prosthetic device to steady the bow of Adia Cardona, center. Madilyn Olsen, right, is Cardona’s violin instructor. (Photo used by permission).

Adia Cardona is a 10-year-old violinist who has exceptional skill for her age and the determination to match it. The young Provo girl also has just one hand.

And while Cardona plays well with a specialized prosthetic that connects to her bow, her music is a little sweeter now thanks to a simple device that came to be because of people at United Way, the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering, and 2ft Prosthetics.

“We needed something that stopped the bow from moving up and down,” says Madilyn Olsen, who has been teaching violin to Cardona at United Way’s South Franklin Community Center in Provo since September 2020.

It was Cardona—who also plays the piano beautifully with her prosthetic arm—who approached Olsen with a sketch of an idea to help guide the bow.

The concept was simple enough: a vertical piece that could attach to the violin and keep the bow in place. But it wasn’t something Olsen knew how to make. So Olsen contacted the college for help, and the college knew who to ask.

“BYU, Can You Help?”

Mechanical engineering student Joshua Vanderpool has won on-campus innovation competitions and is a volunteer with 2ft Prosthetics, a local nonprofit started by BYU students that focuses on low-cost prosthetic devices. Vanderpool is also president of the 2ft Prosthetics club at BYU.

After meeting Cardona, Vanderpool says, “My job wasn’t to save her or do things for her; it was to give her a tool and get out of the way so that she could accomplish whatever she wants.” Starting with Cardona’s design, Vanderpool created a prototype and within a week had it 3D printed and ready for use. The resulting device is affordable and simple to attach.

The first time Cardona used it was the day of her spring recital, and, according to Olsen, Cardona’s subsequent performance sounded amazing. “Everything she touches with music turns to magic,” Olsen says. “Whenever I go through trials, I will be able to look back and see that the trials that Adia faces didn’t stop her from achieving her dreams.”

For her part, Cardona is happy to keep sharing her music. “Thanks to Joshua, I can play easier and just keep playing what I like,” she says.