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Newport students create prosthetic hands for people in need

Newport students create prosthetic hands for people in need
Grace McNeill and Henry Lew of Newport Beach, eighth-graders at St. Mary's school in Aliso Viejo, see how a prosthetic hand they made works on a computer keyboard during class last week. They are working on a project to create artificial hands for people around the world. (Don Leach | Staff Photographer)

Fourteen students from Newport Beach are lending a helping hand to a school project aimed at creating functional prosthetic hands for people in need.

The Aliso Viejo-based St. Mary's private school is collaborating with Enabling the Future, a web-based international network that provides design sheets and kit materials for 3-D-printed prosthetic hands to volunteer makers and ships their completed products to places where they're needed.

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This is the second year that St. Mary's science teacher Katie Red and technology integration specialist Kari Greenfield have taken on the challenge with eighth-grade students.

Students choose the design, color and size of each prosthetic hand based on whether they want a girl or a boy to receive it. Once the sizing and programming are complete, digital files are transferred to a 3-D printer, which creates the basis of the hand.

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Students then refer to YouTube videos on how to use metal screws, foam padding, Velcro, string and rubber grips to assemble the rest of the device.

With four 3-D printers available this year, the goal is to create 25 to 30 prosthetic hands by the end of November, Greenfield said.

Eighth-graders Genevieve Masson, Grace McNeill and Henry Lew, from left, test a prosthetic hand they made in a project at St. Mary’s school in Aliso Viejo.
Eighth-graders Genevieve Masson, Grace McNeill and Henry Lew, from left, test a prosthetic hand they made in a project at St. Mary’s school in Aliso Viejo. (Don Leach | Staff Photographer)

Printing proved difficult last year with only one 3-D printer, Red said. Self-set deadlines were missed and the printer wasn't producing at full capacity, Greenfield said. Some hands had to be reprinted.

Last year, Loma Linda University graduate students visited the eighth-graders and showed them two finished prosthetic hands and shared how they use coding to see how they would function.

Greenfield said the grad students also invited an amputee who discussed using prosthetics. The plan is to have a similar guest this year, she said.

For eighth-grader Henry Lew, the project was initially a "challenge and a bit of a stretch." Now, three months in, he said it's been worth the learning curve.

"My hand will go across the world to help someone, and it's a good feeling," said the 13-year-old. "I might not meet them, but we're helping."

Fellow student Grace McNeill, 13, agreed.

"It's really cool to build and pick the gender and age and make it according to what they like," she said. "I hope we do more … activities."

Eighth-graders Henry Lew, Evita Kalowski and Vaughn Vogel, from left, of Newport Beach check the functionality of a prosthetic hand students made at St. Mary's school in Aliso Viejo.
Eighth-graders Henry Lew, Evita Kalowski and Vaughn Vogel, from left, of Newport Beach check the functionality of a prosthetic hand students made at St. Mary's school in Aliso Viejo. (Don Leach | Staff Photographer)

Twitter: @vegapriscella

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