3rd Grade Class Creates 3D Printed Hand for One of Their Own

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Lance Tankersley and Paris Ortiz

Lance Tankersley and Paris Ortiz

I never get tired of covering stories by a group that many of you have now become familiar with, called e-NABLE. They utilize the wonders of open source technology, combined with the latest breakthroughs in 3D printing, to create prosthetic hands and arms for those in need. The group of volunteers has expanded to over 3,100 people and the evolution of 3D printed prosthetic hands has been on the fast track ever since the organization was founded.

One member of e-NABLE, named Lance Tankersley, not only used his time to help create a prosthetic hand for a little girl in need, but he also decided to get his son’s 3rd grade class involved.

“We have a Stratasys UPrintSE that I manage at my work,” Tankersley tells 3DPrint.com. “The printer was purchased through a grant several years ago. The grants have ended and I was looking for another project for the printer. I came across e-NABLE and immediately thought of Paris (Ortiz), a 3rd grade student in my son’s class, that is missing fingers on her left hand. Me, being an educator at a science center, I thought, ‘what a great opportunity to teach 3D printing by having the class make a hand for one of their own’.”

Paris' 3rd Grade Class

Paris’ 3rd Grade Class

Tankersley, who works at Coca Cola Space Science Center, calls it “Inspired Learning,” and thanks to e-NABLE he was able to go forward with his project.

Over the course of five days, Tankersley and the 3rd grade class from an elementary school in Columbus, Georgia created a 3D printed prosthetic hand for little Paris. In the process, the students learned about e-NABLE, as well as everything that goes into the technology of 3D printing, prior to learning to assemble the parts of Paris’ new hand.

Lance Tankersley and Paris' mother embrace

Lance Tankersley and Paris’ mother embrace

In the design process, Tankersley was a little bit concerned whether Paris had enough wrist mobility in order to operate the 3D printed prosthesis. Unlike some prosthetic hands, which operate based on electrical signals the device receives from the wearer’s body, e-NABLE hands, for the most part, operate based on a simple engineering process. Bending of the wrist pulls on cables located throughout the hand, which flex the fingers, pulling them open or shut.

“She wouldn’t get the chance to try out the full working model until the last day,” Tankersley tells us. “So, on the final day in the auditorium in front of the whole 3rd grade, two TV stations, teachers and parents, I began the presentation. After a summary of the project, I asked my son’s class to line up in front of the stage with Paris at the end, [and said], ‘Each one of you had a hand in making something special that will change Paris’ life’. I gave the hand to the first student and they passed the hand to each other all the way down to Paris.”

paris1In what Tankersley says was one of the most profound things he has done in his life, the hand ended up working just perfectly for Paris. Her mom and Tankersley put the hand on her, as students, parents, teachers, and TV cameras looked on. She bent her wrist and the fingers curled.

Paris then proceeded to give out high fives, shake people’s hands, and show off her new found talents.

“I feel great,” explained Paris to WRBL TV. “For a start, I want to pick stuff up with my hand.”

Paris, who was born with just one hand, now has the ability to do what she wants with both her left and right hands, thanks in part to 3D printing, e-NABLE, her classmates, and Lance Tankersley. One of the great aspects of e-NABLE’s 3D printed hands is the fact that they can be created for under $50 each.  This enabled Tankersley and the school to provide Paris with her hand, free of charge.

“My first thought was how am I going to afford it, but then it was brought to our attention that it was going to be free. We are blessed beyond measure,” said Latala Cofield-Ortiz, Paris’ mother, to WRBL TV.

A sign made and signed by Paris' class

A sign made and signed by Paris’ class

This is just one more great story that comes from the tremendous volunteers over at e-NABLE. What do you think about the initiative that Tankersley took in getting his son’s class involved in this project? Discuss in the 3D printed prosthetic hand forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video of Paris Ortiz below.

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