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Make-A-Wish teams up with Arrow Electronics robotics team, brings teen’s vision of imaginary dragon to life


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    SEDALIA, Colorado (KCNC) — What better place to meet a dragon than at the Cherokee Castle in Sedalia? The wish starts with a virtual reality experience for Belle Cress and some of her family members. The 14-year-old is a cancer survivor.

“She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. It’s a rare bone cancer,” said Amber Borata, Cress’s mom.

Cress’s diagnosis came on the heels of her brother’s battle with the same cancer. Belle went through several surgeries, and 10 months of intense chemotherapy.

“I don’t really remember much about the cancer,” Cress told CBS4.

“It was really tough. And she doesn’t really remember a lot of that just because she was feeling so sick most of the time,” Borata explained.

The light at the end of the tunnel was Belle’s wish.

“Excited … like a feeling that I can’t really explain in my chest … sort of nervous.. excited,” Cress said of the moments before meeting her new pet dragon.

Then the reveal: Cress saw the dragon that she had in her imagination come to life.

“I’ve loved dragons ever since I can remember,” she said.

Make-A-Wish Colorado partnered with Arrow Electronics, who then brought It’s Alive Labs into the project, to create a cutting-edge social robot, a newly emerging realm of technology.

“What we try to do and what everybody involved in this project tried to do is bring Belle’s imagination to life and I think we’ve done that,” said Scott Dishong, President & CEO of Make-A-Wish Colorado. “All of our wishes are intended to bring hope.”

“What she wanted in the form of a dragon was a pet, a friend, a companion, and there’s a whole emerging category of technology called social robots. They can do a variety of things. They can do things for you, they can help you remind you of things, they can handle some of your communications, maybe even get things for you. And in this case they can be used to make you feel better,” said Joe Verrengia, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Arrow Electronics.

“Just rubbing the chin, or the head, or the nose, petting it’s rump a little bit, that will give you those different reactions,” Victoria Pea said as she demonstrated how the dragon interacts. Pea is the project manager for Arrow Electronics.

The dragon wags his tail, stands up, spreads his wings, makes noises, and even “eats” special food. He’ll even sit down when he gets tired.

“Honestly, at the beginning of this, we were wondering if it could be a fire-breathing dragon. Obviously with electronics, it’s not the best idea,” Pea explained.

The body was 3D printed. Each of the scales was individual glued in place. There are 25 motors and several electronic boards that bring the dragon to life. It’s a marvel of electrical and mechanical engineering, not to mention artistry.

“I asked for a dragon because I wanted something that would be as close to a real dragon as possible,” Cress said.

“I’m pretty she she’s in love with it,” her mom added.

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