LOCKPORT, N.Y. - When Roy B. Kelley Elementary School teacher Kirsten Provenzano went to a high-tech science fair last year, she hoped to bring back some cool teaching ideas for her own classroom.
However, she never imagined she would see something that might change the life of one of her students. Provenzano met a young girl named Lucy who had a 3-D printed prosthetic arm.
She immediately thought of one of her own 4th grade students, Ethan. He was born without fingers on his right hand. He never had a prosthetic because the ones he tried were too uncomfortable. Plus, they're expensive, and at his age, he would likely need a new one every year or so because he's growing so much.
Provenzano proposed bringing a 3-D printing curriculum to the Lockport City School District with the goal of making a hand for Ethan. The district approved the idea, and within weeks, they got the ball rolling on purchasing equipment and developing a teaching plan.
They immediately told Ethan about the idea, and Provenzano said his face lit up with excitement.
Her students, including Ethan, spent time each day developing a hand. It was a labor of love - they wanted to help their friend - but also a lot of trial and error. They made dozens of pieces that didn't work quite right.
After a lot of tweaking and precise measurements, down to the millimeter, they finally had all the pieces necessary to build a hand.
The cost to build a hand? Just $20 worth of materials.
It's made of plastic and isn't as durable as a more expensive prosthetic, but Ethan loves the look and the feel. He's able to throw a ball, cup stack like his friends, and even climb fences. He's broken several fingers and hands, but they can be reprinted.
Second grade students in the district are now learning the ins and outs of 3-D printing. Teachers are incorporating math and science into the 3-D printing lessons.
The students are now working on a "helping hands project" and plan to print 3-D fingers and hands for other kids in need, both in the district and in other countries.