An unusual request made to the Make-a-Wish Foundation saw a teenage cancer survivor take a trip to a medieval castle to train a dragon.
Belle Cress was even able to take the dragon home with her, as it was built and designed specifically to respond to her touch, face, and voice.
Make-a-Wish Denver partnered with Arrow Electronics to create the robotic dragon, which Belle named “Dusk” after the 14-year-old girl battled a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma, for which she required several surgeries and 10 months of intensive chemotherapy.
“Excited … like a feeling I can’t really explain in my chest … kind of nervous … excited,” Belle said to CBS, recounting the magical encounter. “I have loved dragons for as long as I can remember,” he said.
The initial meeting took place in virtual reality courtesy of a video created by emergeStudios, which transported Belle to a fantastic place far, far away from where she first saw her dragon. After taking off his virtual reality glasses, Dusk was next to him in the Cherokee Ranch Castle in Colorado, a modern building of 15th century castle building techniques.
Consisting of individually printed 3D scales, 26 motors and various computer boards, it is a marvel of engineering and robotics. Dusk has the ability to see and recognize Bella’s face, respond in different ways to touch, and express himself freely with dragon movements, such as stretching his wonderful wings.
“The reason we’re building a robotic dragon for just one kid is because it’s just for one kid,” says Victoria Pea, Arrow’s project manager. “We want her to be happy, and if a robotic dragon is going to make her happy, I say ‘why not build it?'”
Make-a-Wish has been moving forward during COVID-19, not allowing the pandemic-sized radar signal to distract them from completing 8,800 children’s wishes across the United States.
(MEET UP Belle and her dragon in the video below).
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