EDGEWOOD, Ky. (AP) — A Turkey Foot Middle School engineering class is working on a unique hands-on project.
Teacher Dwayne Humphrey teaches sixth- and seventh-graders how to use engineering design and modeling software, starting with toys and video games, then moves into biomedical design in the eighth grade.
This year, his older students are using those skills and a 3-D printer to build a prosthetic hand for a fellow student who was born without the lower part of her left arm.
"Each year, the students make some kind of prosthetic, a leg or a hand, and someone has to walk on the leg or use the hand to do specific tasks. My students have the skills and ability to do this, but they're not medical professionals. We're not licensed to create prosthetics for students," said Humphrey. "Instead of making something that would just be discarded, I thought, 'Why can't we find someone who could really use this?'"
Then, a new seventh-grade student enrolled at the school.
When Makayla Murphy entered Humphrey's engineering class, the teacher noticed she has only one hand.
Makayla was born without the lower part of her left arm, and she quickly agreed to be the model for the eighth-grade class project.
"I have difficulties getting dressed and carrying books and stuff," she said.
She wanted to be a cheerleader, but said she couldn't hold the pompoms.
"I'm really excited about it because having an arm that can actually move is going to be really cool," Makayla said.
"We're on a journey here. We don't know how it's going to end. We do know we're going to give it our best effort and it's coming together pretty nicely," said Humphrey. "It's incredible how quickly things are changing. As we look into the future, we realize we haven't seen anything yet."
He also said the project has sparked a special interest among the students.
"Middle-schoolers want to influence the world and they get frustrated over lack of control in their lives. With this project, they get to change someone's real life. There's a real opportunity in class to design lessons that have real-world connections," Humphrey said. "Around the world, kids between the ages of 11-14 are adding to the well of human knowledge and invention. We're trying to engage students in work that is meaningful."
Josh Suedkamp and Malachi Pike said that's exactly why they like this project.
"It's better because you're actually affecting someone's life," said Malachi. "It's cool because it helps a real person and it's not just a school project."
"I think we're setting the right kind of tone to really get kids to consider their future careers and giving opportunities to research many of them," Humphrey said. "Hopefully, we'll spark something great."
Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, http://www.nky.com