A Byram Hills High School club, whose members are learning how to use 3D printers to create prosthetic hands, gained a new understanding of the importance of prosthetic limbs during a meeting with a retired U.S. Army officer who navigates life with an artificial leg.
Patty Solimene Collins spoke about the challenge of adjusting to a prosthetic leg, after needing an amputation following an accident, and how she learned to walk and run again.
“This is not cheap technology, but if you ask me, it’s priceless because it helps me do the things I love to do,” she said. While her legs were paid for by Army benefits (she has two: one for regular use and one for sports), she discussed how 3D printers can provide basic assistive hands for those who cannot afford more expensive custom versions because they lack insurance or are underinsured.
Ms. Collins’ visit was coordinated by the High School e-NABLE Club, which is part of the global e-NABLE network. High School Science teacher Paul Beeken, the club’s advisor, has been working with its members on printing a prosthetic hand using the high school’s 3D printers.
During the after-school presentation, Ms. Collins passed around her “everyday” leg as well as one that she uses when runs, rides bicycles and competes in para-triathlons. She also answered questions from students on everything from how a prosthetic leg feels to whether they can give athletes an advantage in competitions. Along with members of the e-NABLE Club, interested students from the Engineering Club and from Physics and Science Technology and Society classes also attended.
Ms. Collins and students also discussed the push to improve prosthetics created by 3D printing. Last June, e-NABLE Club members made a hand to demonstrate their skills and, after being approved by the network, are now waiting to be assigned a patient.
Meanwhile, they have practiced by making parts for other groups that help teach how to assemble the hand-assistive devices from open-source files that can be downloaded and printed for under $50. The 3D-printed prosthetics are typically given to children, who, because they may need a new one every six to nine months often do not get approval from insurance companies for the more sophisticated high-priced limbs. Although the 3D-printed hands are not fully functional prosthetic devices, they help children perform simple tasks and make it easier for them to ride bikes, play on swings or participate in sports.
News Courtesy of the Byram Hills School District