PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - A California teen will get a new prosthetic hand thanks to the work of four Paragould Junior High School students.
Jaden Simmons, Ethan Barnes, Bradley Hooks, and Jacob Griffith, all in the 7th grade, have dedicated a year's worth of 3-D printing in their EAST Lab to create a hand for 14-year-old Matthew.
Matthew, a 6'3" teen born without a complete hand, was matched with the group through Enable, a nationwide foundation made up of doctors and surgeons who work with orthopedic doctors to provide prosthetics to people without limbs.
Teddi Martin, the EAST facilitator, said while incorporating STEM into the curriculum, the students learned of Enable and wanted to be a part of the cause to help others.
"People of all ages, especially children, the insurance doesn't buy limbs because they are expensive," said Martin. "The can cost tens of thousands of dollars to get. Well, we came up with a way to make a 3-D prosthetic for less than $100."
The students have been working on a $2,500 3-D printer to create a prototype for the hand, and when they were approved by the foundation, they were given the green light to start the construction of a custom-made prosthetic hand for Matthew.
"We would FaceTime Matthew and he picked the colors and everything," said Simmons. "The challenging part is that we found out he was 14 and 6'3 so his hand was huge!"
Several months back, Matthew had a prosthetic hand until one day it broke while he was at school.
"I felt bad because when I found out his first prosthetic broke, I knew we had to really work hard to replace it for him," said Simmons.
Hooks said over the course of printing the hand they ran into many obstacles.
"Sometimes, we would have to print overnight, and when we would get to school in the morning, a piece would be missing or something so we would have to start all the way over again," said Hooks.
Barnes said he was happy the hand is now complete because he knows Matthew will not be limited in his daily activities anymore.
"He will be able to pick things up and drink with this hand again," said Barnes. "He could play basketball and everything."
Martin said, even though this project required a lot of work, she knows that the kids feel confident knowing their hard work went to something purposeful.
"This has definitely help me out with school a lot," said Simmons. "With the amount of measurements we had to convert and submit, my math grades shot up!"
"It's a slow process," said Martin. "But it is an exciting one and now that we know how to make one hand, we have to make sure we teach the next group of kids coming through so this can continue."
Martin said with this experience under their belts, she hopes to make at least six prosthetic hands each year for people on a local level.
The students said they are very relieved the project is over but are proud knowing their work will benefit someone in the long run.
"I hope it helps him," said Simmons. "Like he said, he couldn't really pick up anything with his hand and I hope this really really helps and I am really hoping it does him good."
Matthew received his hand on Feb. 18. His family said he is proud of his new hand. He also thanks everyone who worked hard to provide him with a new hand.
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