Source: The Hour by Kevin Schultz
NORWALK — A 6-year-old boy lacking a left arm will gain a new robotic limb this week thanks to a group of ingenuitive Norwalk High School students and the good grace of a local business.
The group of students sought out funding for a 3-D printer to produce a limb for a child in need last December in a story featured in The Hour. The team had already raised some money, but Norwalk’s Professional Graphics came forward to donate an additional $1,400 to help the group meet its ultimate goal of $3,424.20 after the story ran.
“They were in a graphics class together,” said Lynn Federici, Anthony Federici’s wife. “There was some new technology and the teacher said, ‘I don’t know how to do it, I’m not touching it.’ Tony and his partner took it upon themselves to learn how to do it to show the teacher and show the kids and that’s where they got their interest in printing and technology.”
After the students secured enough funding to purchase the printer and supplies, they ordered the Ultimaker 2+ 3-D printer and procured a room in the school to house it earlier this year. They then began to print out a hand.
That’s when one of the project’s other donors reached out. The donor, a Norwalk resident, had a nephew that needed a prosthetic hand, but couldn’t afford one.
The students were able to arrange a time around Spring Break to meet with the child, from the Carolinas, to take measurements and then get started on making him a hand.
As it turns out, the hand the students were already in the process of printing was not the right model for the boy. After some adjustments and customization, they started over on a new robotic arm using designs from the website enablingthefuture.org.
The 3-D printer works using an additive manufacturing process. That means the printer is fed a plastic material called PLA that it then uses to lay down successive flat layers that represent cross-sections of the whole object. The printer lays these thin layers on top of each other to ultimately produce the 3-D object.
Each part took about a day to finalize. Bigger parts took about 12 hours to print, smaller parts 6 hours. The printing of the arm took about 1.5 weeks to print total and a couple of days to assemble. The end product is a full arm device with fingers that grip when the elbow is bent.
Vega first thought of 3-D printing prosthetic body parts last school year as he was touring South Norwalk’s Industrial CHIMP. As he walked through the shop he was shown by one of the gallery’s workers a prosthetic arm produced for a local mailman through a 3-D printer.
“Helping a kid would be twice that,” Vega said, “because it changes his entire life.”
Jasmine Martins, a 15-year-old sophomore, and Salverio Campagna, a 16-year-old sophomore, were also a part of the project that encompassed a team of roughly eight core students and countless members of the school and Norwalk communities.
“We are immensely proud our students for their efforts in this worthwhile cause and for Mrs. Morrison in helping facilitate it,” said Evan Byron, chairman of the Norwalk High’s science department. “Our students have truly embodied what it means to further their academic, social, and civic competencies in the 21st century by applying their content knowledge for the betterment of a child. This is what Norwalk High and Norwalk education are all about.”
Morrison said the team would be sending the arm in the mail to its new owner on Friday.
“For us it’s just a beginning, as we know there are a lot of other people out there who might need help,” she said. Now, “We’ve got to find a new client.”