MONETTE, AR (KAIT) - Born without a hand, a Region 8 teacher has learned to live day to day differently than most.
Patty Qualls is an elementary school teacher at Buffalo Island Elementary in Monette.
She has lived her entire life without a left hand and said she knows no other way.
"I've spent my whole life trying to just be normal," Qualls said.
She explains to her new students every year she's not much different than them.
"I can paint my fingernails," Qualls said. "I can peck out a tune on the piano, do everything they do, I just have to do it with one hand."
So when Alex Talavera and his EAST classmates at Buffalo Island Central High School came up with the idea to create her a 3D hand, she was hesitant.
In her 19 years of teaching, though, she's always encouraged her students to try new things.
"It has been a joy to me to introduce them to something they would have never even heard of," Qualls said.
Friday, Talavera presented the hand to Qualls in front of her entire class.
Talavera, a senior at BIC, aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon.
He built a smaller 3D hand last year and admits he was a bit intimidated when taking on this project.
"But why not," Talavera said. "That's the point of EAST to reach new heights and do new things."
It took his team several tries with the computer software and 3D printer to get the hand just right.
He said the hard work paid off by seeing his vision come to life.
Qualls has taken her BIC Elementary School students along for the ride, telling Region 8 News they've visited the EAST classroom and really enjoyed learning from Talavera and his classmates.
Talavera said they have a little more work to do to make the hand completely mobile for Qualls, but it is almost perfect.
Qualls said she's excited to put it to use.
"To be able to grip something, a piece of paper or something, would be an awesome thing for me," Qualls said.
The 3D hand project is part of the EAST classes submission to the state EAST conference and competition.
They are in the running for the 2017 Timothy R. Stephenson Founder's Award.
Talavera and his classmates travel to the conference this month to find out if they won.
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