Many STEM Classrooms 3D Printing e-NABLE Prosthetics, SC Middle Schoolers Launch HandChallenge


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csO2ZqJdFounded just a few years ago, e-NABLE is a movement that has developed many layers to their goodwill efforts around the world using 3D design and 3D printing to help those in need of replacement hands and arms. Growing from just 100 volunteers to around 7,000 now, they are the very embodiment of using technology to change the world for good.

Volunteers are empowered to take on projects with guidance from e-NABLE, providing 3D printed prosthetics to individuals, most of them children, around the world. The resulting inspiration and emotions that are experienced for all involved surely go beyond words as people’s lives are changed—and many never expected to have a replacement limb at all, much less one that would be so multi-functional—from the Raptor to the Ody to the Osprey hand.

To see a difference being made in a child’s life is incredible—and along with that, seeing other children make the difference for them certainly gives us a wonderful glimpse of humanity at its best, something we all crave more of. Students have been involved with e-NABLE for some time now as more and more schools are creating 3D printing labs within their libraries, media centers and classrooms. Once they move beyond the very basics of making simple 3D models, numerous classes have worked together as groups to take the leap into fabricating prosthetics from e-NABLE designs.

7366854We’ve followed countless stories now of students doing so recently in places like the US, Canada, even Aruba–and far more. These projects can indeed be mastered by quite young students, creating devices and seeing them delivered to children who could not afford limb replacements otherwise, and certainly would not have the customization or multi-functionality offered by the e-NABLE designs.

Along with providing the ultimate goodwill to others who are often their own age, these students are now also receiving the valuable skillsets that come from STEM (science, technology, education, and math) education—and creating a prosthetic certainly puts all of those disciplines into play. In the past year, numerous classrooms, focusing on a STEM curriculum, have already made the e-NABLE designs a central part of their project list.

We focused on one special school in particular last year where middle schoolers in South Carolina became quite swept away with the 3D printing of prosthetics, at first being paired with another young student in need, and then going on to hold a Hand-A-Thon with 85 other students participating, and 20 prosthetic hands being made. Dubbed ‘Project Kids,’ the students at Crossroads Intermediate School actually won the 2015 Belk Service Learning Prize and an $8,000 check from Belk, Discovery Education and the International Society for Technology in Education. This is a perfect example of how through STEM learning, students grasped how fulfilling education can be, coupled with helping others.

“So often we have the tendency in our society to almost be derisive towards kids – you know – ‘kids these days,’” said their teacher, Dr. Craft. “But the reality is, when presented with the opportunity to do something positive for others, kids – especially girls – absolutely latch on to it.”

“They gave up recess time, they’ve [worked] after school, they’ve been absolutely awe-inspiring. They’re using their hearts and passion to do something great for this world,” he says.

Students and teachers at the Hand-A-Thon event sponsored by Discovery Education and The Belk Service Learning Challenge in Columbia, S.C., Friday, May 29, 2015. (Photo/Bob Leverone)

Students and teachers at the Hand-A-Thon event sponsored by Discovery Education and The Belk Service Learning Challenge in Columbia, S.C., Friday, May 29, 2015. [Image: Bob Leverone]

Now, with a new school year ensuing, these same students are not only continuing their project, but they have created their own program for teachers, students, and anyone with a 3D printer.

“As the new school year dawned and a new group of students eagerly entered Introduction to S.T.E.M. class, the energy and desire to impact the world was palpable. As a result of unparalleled student passion, we launched, a site where we are challenging every school, makerspace and person with a 3D printer to print and assemble ONE 3D printed hand and send it to us,” states the Project Kids team—now up to 100 students in the South Carolina school.

Students and teachers react to being named the winners of The Belk Service Learning Challenge in Columbia, S.C., Friday, May 28, 2015. (Photo/Bob Leverone)

Students at Crossroads Intermediate School [Image: Bob Leverone]

They have even made a series (see below) of tutorial videos, ‘bite-sized and kid-friendly,’ for everyone to get a head start in assembling their own 3D printed prosthetics:

  • Build a Raptor Reloaded Hand Tutorial Set – English
  • Build a Raptor Reloaded Hand Tutiroal Set – Spanish
  • Introduction To 3D Printing  

“My students are learning that it’s not about ‘us.’ The best part of the project isn’t the increased S.T.E.M. engagement (which is absolutely true) or the critical thought around the design and assembly of the hand (which is clearly evident), it’s that they are coming together to make someone else’s life better,” says Dr. Craft.

“As I look at the nearly 30 completed e-NABLE hands sitting mere feet from my desk, I am reminded of the smiles, laughter and collaboration that made them possible. Kids realize their true potential when they are working for the joy of others.”

These students are very busy not only with launching their own challenge, but also in creating two new arms, along with preparing a set of instructional videos in Portuguese.

With HandChallenge, they are also offering their services to other students as mentors, and invite schools to contact them through the website for information and assistance. They also offer guidance for schools in need of 3D printers.

Also, be sure to check out the contest we’ve been following, recently launched by e-NABLE. The CREATE T.I.M.E. e-NABLE Design Challenge, offering a series of contests, invites everyone, most especially kids, to enter designs where they are ‘thinking outside the box.’ For the first one they are asking participants to design new attachments for the Python Utility Hand, a basic hand designed specifically so that utilitarian attachments could be easily connected. Entries are being accepted through March 31. Tell us your thoughts on these new projects in the 3D Printing HandChallenge forum over at


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