Friday, January 24, 2014

Let's Give Him a Hand (Literally)

Two weeks ago a You Tube video made its way to a mother in Shelby, Ohio.  It was a three minute segment.  It was a very powerful three minute segment.  The video was an older CBS Nightly News segment.  It was a news story covering a father with a son who had one hand.  The father was able to get access to a 3D printer.  He then designed and printed out a hand for his son.  A almost fully functioning hand:

Enter Riley.  An elementary student in Shelby, Ohio.  Riley's mother (Kelly) had viewed this video and wondered if something similar could be done for her son.  She is a teacher at Shelby Middle School.  Another teacher at Shelby High School is married to one of the most innovative teachers I have ever know.  He is a Pioneer Career and Technology Center employee.  He happens to have a 3D printer...

Enter Keith Strickler.  As I stated earlier, he is undoubtedly, one of the most innovative teachers I have ever known.  Riley's mother asked Keith if this was possible.  Keith, being Keith, said it was.  That evening Keith emailed and text me his idea.

After hours of searching online, an open source software coupled with design plans for a similar prosthetic, was discovered.  Keith immediately jumped into action.  The mother and I were contacted.  To be honest, at first I was nervous.  I don't mind when my teachers and students try something new and fail.  Failure is a part of life that must be embraced and learned from.  That being said, I was not going to tell Riley that we could make him a functioning hand, get him excited just to find out that we can't.  That was a failure I was not willing to accept.  Keith assured me it was possible and that he and his students would get this done.  Keith has never let me down.

A picture of Robo Hand.  This is similar to what we will create.
Only ours will look like Iron Man's hand (per Riley).

Within two days of being contacted Mr. Stickler's class had designed and printed out, on a 3D printer, a piece of the prosthetic hand.

Here are the students working with Mr. Strickler on the 3D printer.

This is the first piece printed that will
eventually be assembled into a
 prosthetic hand.

Next, an occupational therapist was recruited.  It is imperative we understand the functionality of Riley's wrist.  The design we have in mind will allow Riley to open and close his prosthetic hand by moving his wrist up or down.  Therefore, we need to know the flexibility and movement capabilities of his wrist.

After talking with Riley it was learned that after a whole life of not having a hand, Riley, wanted a hand that other kids would be jealous of.  Enter Kurtzman's Creature Corps. Rob Kurtzman owns one of two colleges in the nation that specializes in make-up and costume design as well as special effects for Hollywood movies.  Rob Kurtzman is a star in the industry.  His wife, happens to be one of my teachers.  His work can be seen here:

Creature Corps

The goal, is to have our students design, using Sketch Up Pro, the pieces of the prosthetic hand, print them out on the 3D printer, assemble the pieces using piano wire and stainless steel bolts.  This will be our prototype of the hand.  If this design is functional we will then send the design to Pioneer's main campus and print another prosthetic hand on a much more robust 3D printer.  The end product of this printer will be much more durable and will last longer.  When this is complete, have our students work with Alan (vice president) from Creature Corp to make the prosthetic look like the Iron Man hand.

Left, Alan from Creature Corp working with
our students, Riley and Kelly (right).

Enter Yanke Bionics.  As I thought about this project more I realized there is more learning opportunities for our students.  Yanke Bionics is a national chain that create prosthetic's.  They are most known for their participation on America's Extreme Home Make Over.  On the show they made a prosthetic, free of charge, for a veteran of the Iraq War.  They are no stranger to community service.  I made contact within three days of this project.  I am not looking for them to design and print the pieces of the hand for us.  I want my students to do that.  I want them to serve in a mentorship role.  If we get stuck on a design issue I want my students to turn to professionals.  I want my 17 year old students communicating with highly intelligent and successful professionals in this field.  I also want my students to know what they are doing is also a potentially lucrative career.

Not only do we want to make him a prosthetic hand that will be functional and one that will make other kids jealous, we also want to make a hand that is more normal looking.  This way Riley will be able to choose what hand he wants to wear each day.

The goal is set and achievable.  The plan is in action.  The player are in place: Pioneer Career and Technology Center, Keith Strickler, Riley and his mother, Crestline HS students, Alan (Creature Corps) and Yanke Bionics.  It truly is amazing what a three minute YouTube video, a text message and a 3D printer can produce!  Of course, you need to have people who care and are motivated to serve!

What an amazing learning opportunity that represents what 21st Century learning should look like!  What an opportunity for our students to both learn and serve at the same time.  What an opportunity for local businesses to work with and alongside competent high school students and change lives.  What an opportunity for a wonderful, innocent, loving and truly appreciative young man and his mother!!

EDUCATION = Changing lives one child at a time...

Please, stay posted as this amazing lesson, story and life changing event continues.