Cherokee, VanGorden Students Create 3D Prosthetic Hand to Help Child in Need

Cherokee, VanGorden Students Create 3D Prosthetic Hand to Help Child in Need
Posted on 02/16/2017
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students watching 3D printer
As part of the third grade curriculum for Lakota’s elementary technology class, Cherokee Elementary students learn about the functionality of a 3D printer along with the possibilities of what it can currently print. But perhaps the biggest lesson they’ve learned is how a 3D printer can impact their lives – and the lives of others.

After watching a short clip from PBS’s “Design Squad” where a young boy made a 3D prosthetic hand for another child, some students were inspired to work with elementary technology teacher Jenny Haynes to be part of the “Prosthetic Kids Hand Challenge”.

“In the engineering design process students learn how to think, create, solve problems, and design,” said Haynes. “I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to allow my students to put their energy and thoughts into helping others through their study and knowledge of how a 3D printer works.”

The hand challenge team consisted of 12 third-graders (two from each homeroom). The students met with Haynes during their recess time, and they made sure to share their progress with fellow classmates along the way.

To begin, the team researched the Enable the Future website (which hosts the hand challenge project) to explore how to put the hand together and decide how to share the work among the 12 students. The website provided step-by-step instructions and how-to videos from other students who have put hands together.

As part of the project, the students learned how to download a pre-designed file, print it, separate the pieces and then try to put the pieces together collaboratively. Haynes added, “Along the way, there were problems to solve and even a couple of times where we needed to make adjustments to the hand for stability which created a beautiful learning experience. We also discussed the importance of perseverance when working together and trying again if things didn’t quite work out as we thought they should.”

Haynes recently shipped the complete 3D prosthetic hand to Enable the Future where it will be inspected to ensure it functions properly, and then displayed along with other hands created from around the world. Once the challenge has ended, the hands will be sent to children in need. 

picture of 3D prosthetic handOnce the project was complete, the third-graders were thrilled with the results. “I thought the project was surprising and really cool,” said Alex Rivera. “I was also glad to be a part of it because I knew I was helping someone.” Another student summed it up well, stating “We actually built a hand to make a girl’s life better!”

A fifth-grade technology class at VanGorden Elementary will be working with Haynes this semester on the hand challenge project. “I feel that it’s important for students to be able to take ownership of their work. I am counting on the level of maturity and independent skills of the fifth-graders to make the hand with little involvement from me. The opportunity to be a part of a special project where our technology can be used for helping others is a blessing.”

Thanks to the support of the community, Lakota elementary technology classes continue to provide students in grades 1-6 with a solid foundation of technology skills that can easily be incorporated across disciplines. This enables classroom teachers to continue to expand and strengthen their use of instructional technology in teaching and learning. The creation of these elementary technology classes was part of Lakota's Instructional Technology Strategic Plan, a 2013 levy promise.

teacher with hand challenge team

The hand challenge team at Cherokee included: Daysia Poloco, Owen Polston, Addison Agee, Gavin Neate, Caden Lasita, Romina Martinez, Sophia Murphy, Evan Williams, Alex Rivera, Brooklyn Pfeiffer, Aiden Polston, and Qirra Sheffield.