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High School Seniors Design A Custom Prosthetic Hand For A Five-Year-Old Girl

Lakota high school seniors chose a daunting mission for their capstone STEM project: build a ‘tunable’ prosthetic for a 5-year-old girl who was born without her right hand.

The Lakota students reached out to Kinetic Vision to perform laser scanning on Hansika Hamre’s hands and forearms in order to replicate the geometries needed to design the prosthesis. Over the following year the students and Kinetic Vision engineers collaborated on several aspects of the design and development.

“The real challenge was to take our design and make it as compact as possible. It’s a lot harder than we thought, but we learned so much through the process,” said Cali Hoffman, one of the seniors on the Lakota team.

To help achieve the objective, the team tapped into the Prototyping Shop at Kinetic Vision where they used advanced software and production tools to build the device, including laser scanning and 3D printing.

“Taking on a project of this magnitude and importance was a tall order. The spirit and tenacity of the Lakota students to come up with a useful solution was incredible,” said Jeremy Jarrett, Senior Vice President of Kinetic Vision.

The device uses a system of wires attached to the 3D printed prosthetic fingers and an adjustable tensioner to tune the hand’s grasp. The system was wrapped in a sports glove to help make it visually more appealing.

“We were impressed with their organization and their ability to think about how to integrate existing ideas into the new design,” said Tyler Tatum, an Engineer at Kinetic Vision. “Their ability to master new technologies and prototyping methods was really great to see,” he added.

The project marks the completion of the capstone project that had one objective: use the STEM curriculum to impact the life of one person. “We knew if we set up the project to help the community, the lessons the students would learn would be invaluable,” said Kenneth Kinch, Butler Tech and Lakota Engineering Instructor.

Hansika was born with symbrachydactyly, a rare disorder that causes children to be born with shorter or missing fingers and toes. Her left hand developed fully; her right hand did not. Cara Hamre, Hansika’s mother, said that her daughter has adapted to the condition, but is grateful that the students worked on the project to help her. “It is really something to see high school students working on projects that directly impact people’s lives.”

Linda Phipps, Occupational Therapist at Lakota schools, worked with Kinch to help match the students to Hansika. Working with the students during the project has made quite an impression on her, saying “It's wonderful that this generation is so engaged to help their community and make a difference in the lives of other people. To do that at age 18 is extraordinary and it speaks volumes about their future.”

Asked if he was glad the project (and high school) were now completed, Sam Billisits, a Lakota senior on the team, said “We’re finished, but it really is a beginning. We’re going off to college, but we’re here for her to help as she grows.”

Click HERE to see more about the story on WCPO Channel 9.

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