Month: August 2009

Repairing a Blown-Up Hand

Dr. Dimitri Anastakis featured in a Globe and Mail article.

Prior to the first in a series of reconstructive surgeries, Dylan Birch's doctor took this photo of his patient displaying the hand he mangled in a rocket-building accident. (Peter Cheney)

Prior to the first in a series of reconstructive surgeries, Dylan Birch’s doctor took this photo of his patient displaying the hand he mangled in a rocket-building accident.
(Peter Cheney)

By Grade 7, Dylan Birch was chasing the dream that would nearly kill him. He collected pencils, aluminum pop cans and a sheet of sandpaper – the materials for his first rocket.

The pencils would be hollowed out, then filled with a homemade fuel propelled by the powdered aluminum that Dylan manufactured by sanding down the cans. His father managed a Canadian Tire store, so tools were easy to come by. And, in the age of the Internet, so was the knowledge – Dylan studied the website of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, soaking up the rudiments of rocket science.

“It was all there,” he says. “All you had to do was look.”

Dylan was a born inventor, an adolescent Leonardo da Vinci who loved nothing better than building a solar-heating system for his parents’ new pool or designing an airplane online with Google Sketch-Up. Now, he was obsessed with rockets.

His early, pencil-based models were powerful enough to shoot a skateboard across his parents’ driveway, but Dylan wanted more. He scaled up his efforts, using cardboard mailing tubes for his rocket bodies instead.

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