St. Paul high school senior creates device to help 2nd grader open milk carton, other containers

Orion Yang is an 8-year-old second grader in the St. Paul Public School district

“He is outgoing and very independent,” his mom Ka Yang said.

But that independence was being challenged due to a physical disability affecting the right side of his body.

“He wanted to open a milk carton on his own, and I started to do some research on it and I couldn’t find anything that would make any sense at all,” said Debra Godfrey, one of Orion’s teachers who helps him with his physical impairment.

That is until Godfrey saw an email from Harding High School teacher Jamie Thompson looking for projects for her digital fabrication class.

“There’s something about being able to take your talents and technology together to serve another person,” Thompson said.

Working with the teachers, Harding High School senior Nuege Xiong designed and 3D printed a little yellow device for Orion.

“The first thing we had to do was decide what do we want it to do what do we want to accomplish,” Xiong said.

“I’m going to call it from now on the yellow opener,” Orion said, describing the new device.

Originally designed for a milk carton, Orion is now using it for milk, juice and fruit cups.

His right hand or arm holds it in place while he opens the containers with his left hand.

“As a teacher, I don’t think it could be any better, my heart is overflowing, my tears overflowing with joy,” Godfrey said.

Orion isn’t the only one using the device. It’s become quite popular, and about a dozen other students in six different schools are also using it, with requests for more each day.

“Almost every day I walk into the room and I press print and we’ve been turning them out, about 12 to 15 of them now,” Thompson said.

Orion’s smile exudes confidence and independence.

“It makes me feel so happy for him because I can only do so much for him to have Nuege create such a great device to help him so he can be more independent that just makes me so happy and I’m super thankful,” said Ka Yang.

Although they just met each other for the first time Thursday, these two students have a connection that won’t soon be forgotten.

“It brings me a lot of joy to see that he can use it and it allows him to help open a lot of stuff that we take for granted, so it brings me a lot of joy,” Xiong said.