The People's Tribune

Local Students Take Part In Project With Special Purpose For Potential Recipients

FBLA Members Build Prosthetic Hands To Present At State Before Donating To Disabled Kids

Offering a helping hand has new meaning for students in the 3D modeling and animation class at Pike-Lincoln Technical Center who are working to construct a pair of prosthetic hands that can be utilized by children in need.

Lori Collins teaches the class and decided to look for a project that would engage the students while also provide a valuable service. She came across the e-NABLE online community which utilizes 3D printers to create free 3D printed hands and arms for those in need of an upper limb assistive device.

Collins pointed out that since children grow so rapidly they often do not receive a permanent prosthetic for a missing limb until they reach adulthood.

“These devices are relatively inexpensive and can be used as they grow,” she explained.

The mechanical hands are being developed by students as a community service project for the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), which will be entered into the state competition in April before being sent to the program for distribution to kids.

Two groups of three students are working on the two hands, one right and one left. The pieces to for the hands were generated in the 3D printer at PLTC and the students have assembled the units. They are working to install the system of cables and pulleys that articulate the fingers. The design is made for children who can operate them with wrist control. Future projects may include units that go up the arm to the elbow.

Developing the left hand are students Andrew Dobyns, a junior at Bowling Green High School; Matthew Rubino, a senior at Louisiana High School; and Shannon Richnak, a junior at Troy High School. Working on the right hand are Chaz Marx and Kiara Griffith, juniors at Louisiana High School and Rebekah Henderson, a junior at Troy High School.

Rubino noted that this project is special to them because it has a real world consequence.

“It’s exciting to be helping a little boy or girl who may feel different to help them feel normal and accepted,” Rubino explained.

He added that it would amazing if the students working on the project could meet the eventual recipients of the devices.

Dobyns pointed out that it hasn’t been easy. The project has meant doing a great deal of research and a lot of emailing with administrators of the program to ensure the devices were built to exact specifications. Students started the project in November.

The hands were developed from scratch and printed with the material in the 3D printer. Rubino said it took about 12 hours for all of the pieces to be printed. Then the pieces were assembled by the members of each team.

He added that he feels confident the teams will do well at the upcoming FBLA state competition which is April 2-4.

“We could move on to Nationals in California.”

Rubino said that fellow students he’s told about the project are excited and want to take part.

Collins pointed out that juniors in the program who take part again next year will help teach other students. This will help grow the project overall.

Marx agreed the project has had frustrating moments along the way but that it has been worth it to see the hand come together.

“It’s exciting to help a kid in the early part of life,” Griffith remarked.

Marx noted it has taken a lot of patience. Another student in the class joked that it’s not something for a person with “anger issues.”

The parts for the prosthetic hands only cost about $50 to generate in the 3D printers. The eNABLE community provided the plans and specifications. Students created the hands in a neutral color so the children who receive them can tattoo them or color them to their own choosing.

Collins said some kids have had “superheroes” such as Spiderman show up after they receive their assistive device to help celebrate. Pictures of children with different types of devices are available at the site: enablingthefuture.org.

Visiting the site gave Collins the idea initially and the students were quick to get on board. The site has generated participation from people with 3D printers all over the world. According to information on the site, as of 2015 there were more than 7,000 volunteers generating 1,800 hands and arms in four countries.

According to the website, “the e-NABLE Community is made up of teachers, students, engineers, scientists, medical professionals, tinkerers, designers, parents, children, scout troops, artists, philanthropists, dreamers, coders, makers and every day people who just want to make a difference and help to “Give The World A Helping Hand.’”

Collins noted that she is looking into the possibility of a future meeting for the recipients and the builders. She added this project will definitely continue based on the enthusiasm of the students, the level of skill required and, ultimately, the quality of the result.

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