Reaching out

The robotics class 3D prints prosthetic hands


Zabrina Yannela

“All of the hands that come out of Mr. Richards’ class are student-made from upper limb deficient individuals in Haiti and the United States,” senior Calla Coleman said. “We are ask very proud to be entrusted with this amazing project and hope that our work can help those who receive our hands live their lives to the fullest.”

Every single day we use our hands, from the minute we wake up to turn off our alarm clocks until the very minute we reach for the covers as we crawl into bed. For those who have hand and arm defects, they are unable to do simple tasks such as this. The Stockbridge underwater robotics class is taking matters into its own hands with the help of 3D printing.

Students have been building prosthetic hands to help the Enable Foundation, an organization that aims to create 3D printed prosthetics for children and those of under served populations around the world, such as Haiti.

“We like to do projects that matter,” underwater robotics teacher, Bob Richards said. “A lot of time when people start 3D printing, they make key chains and iPhone cases, which is fine, but we wanted to do something with a little more impact.”

The robotics class plan to make 22 prosthetics hands over the course of the school year.

“So far we have five hands completed, which [students] started over the summer and a bunch of partial ones, because they take a while to make,” said Richards.

With the help of the Enable Foundation, the robotics class hopes to be matched with kids all over the world who need low-cost prosthetics.

The robotics class was also approached by the nonprofit organization Project 418, sponsored by Jet’s Pizza of Chelsea, which runs two orphanages and one vocational school in Haiti. They they will be running a clinic for those who need prosthetic hands and the robotics class has decided to help them out as well.

“The insurance companies will get you one maybe two, when you are working with children their hand grow so much each year and they basically need a resized hand every year,” Richards said. “And this is a low cost way to make a specific prosthetic for children as their growing.”

Prosthetics made by 3D printing cost between $35 and $50 compared to traditional prosthetics that can costs $8,000 to $10,000.

“I think it makes a huge impact and I’m really proud of that,” senior Jake Chapman said. “In a lot of high school classes, you don’t really see your worksheets or your textbook problems making a difference in the world. I like coming to this class because I can sit down with a laptop and a 3D printer and actually make something in real time that is going to benefit someone in real life.”