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Graduation Profile: Could 3D printing change a life? This Mason senior is confident it can.

May 13, 2020   /   by Mariam Aburdeineh

When Denys Kuratchenko began working at Northern Virginia Community College’s 3D printing lab in 2017, he didn’t anticipate that his projects would change lives. But the expression on a young girl’s face made him realize he could.

The lab’s director, Lawrence Nightingale, tasked Kuratchenko with creating a braille learning aid for a visually impaired child at a local middle school, Kuratchenko said. So, he 3D-printed a topographical map of Virginia.

“For her to be able to feel the ridges [and] explore the mountains with her fingertips, it meant just as much as for any of us to take a road trip and visually see [the state],” said Kuratchenko, a May 2020 graduate. “Seeing all that excitement on her face, that experience she had with something as simple as this, it was a really touching moment.”

“That’s when I realized I want to use 3D printing to help people with disabilities,” Kuratchenko said.

Since transferring to George Mason University in 2018, the senior information systems and operations management major has worked at the MIX at Innovation as a maker assistant. Students, faculty and staff come in to use the equipment, including several 3D printers, and Kuratchenko assesses their needs to determine how they can best use the technology to achieve their goals.

“Having access to all of these technologies is absolutely incredible,” Kuratchenko said.

When he’s not helping the Mason community on their projects, Kuratchenko said he works on his own.

Recently Kuratchenko 3D printed a prosthetic hand to help people in need through the E-nabling the Future organization. The creation took about 40 hours of printer operation and 10 hours of assembly, he said. Though the hand is completed, he is still open to finding a recipient for it. Each request for a prosthetic limb has already been fulfilled on E-nabling the Future, he said.

Denys Kuratchenko runs a 24/7 "print farm" from his apartment to 3D print face shields for the medical community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo provided.

He has also been 3D printing face shields for the medical community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kuratchenko, who is from Ukraine and has lived in Virginia for the past five years, said he knew he wanted to attend Mason starting in high school. The university’s strong reputation and programs tailored to his interests were selling points.

“[Mason was] the only university I set my mind to,” Kuratchenko said. “I really love bringing people and technology together, so I’m really happy with Mason for offering this unique degree.”

In and out of the MIX, Kuratchenko said his experience at Mason has been impactful.

“[Mason School of Business professors are] teaching you not only by the book, but they also have experience and put effort to teach you by the field—how things work in real life—and I really appreciate them,” Kuratchenko said.

He is also grateful for the community he’s found.

Associate Director for Entrepreneurship Programs Karen Livingston and MIX Maker Manager Amanda Jarvis “have a great vision for this place and they keep pushing it forward,” Kuratchenko said. “I’m thankful to all my coworkers that make this such a good place to work and make me want to come back to work after every weekend.”

Kuratchenko, who wants to work in industrial additive manufacturing, is well on his way to great things, his mentors said.

“I think that Denys will wind up applying his enthusiasm and energy to the next phase of consumer technology,” Nightingale said. “Students like Denys, who have a good balance of technical knowledge and originality of thought, are the ones that will be making significant things happen in the future.”

Denys Kuratchenko. Photo by Lathan Goumas.

* Denys Kuratchenko is looking for a recipient for the prosthetic hand he 3D printed. If you know someone in need who may benefit from it, please email dkuratch@masonlive.gmu.edu