EAST students are using 3D printing to help a wounded veteran make music. This project began when we met Lee Haight, who manages Soldier’s Songs and Voices of NWA. We discussed 3D printing and ways that we could help wounded warriors play music. Lee connected us with Howard Shuettpelz, who was just learning to play the guitar. Howard is a Vietnam Veteran who was injured in combat when a rocket hit the truck he was driving. He is a double amputee and still has shrapnel embedded in his left hand. He recently lost his wife and lives alone. He told us “music just fills his empty house and helps me pass my day,” but it was very clear that making music means far more than just passing the time to him. Howard has a very similar vision to what we have in EAST: He wants to give back, and he travels to Hospice Care facilities and children’s areas of local hospitals to sing and brighten people’s day. He was very happy to play for us as well, and it was amazing to see and hear. His energy filled the room.
While singing comes easily for him, Howard has been struggling with a couple aspects of playing the guitar. This is where EAST students come in. We want to help him bridge that gap and make his music as lively as he is.
Being a double amputee, he is having difficulty keeping his guitar on his lap when he plays. The strap is not enough to keep the guitar where it needs to be for him to play.
We are working on a prototype that will attach to his chair and hold his guitar for him so he doesn’t have to adjust as often. In addition, his eyesight is not great, so we are adapting a collapsible music stand to bring sheet music closer to him.
Finally, because large amounts of shrapnel cause him difficulty in moving all of his left fingers, he struggles to play chords. We want to create a guitar slide that is perfectly molded to his hand. We will be using a 3D scan of his hand to create a mold. We will also be collaborating with a local glass maker to provide him with a glass slide that will perfectly fit his hand and allow him to create the type of sound he is looking for when he plays.
We made an immediate connection with Howard, and his partnership is one that we cherish. He inspires us, and it has been incredible to see how he doesn’t let his disability or his fears hold him back. He is a true inspiration, and we believe his music and his message need to be heard.