​L​akota third-graders make prosthetic hand

Q&A: Jenny Haynes, technology teacher, Cherokee Elementary.

As part of the third-grade technology curriculum, Cherokee Elementary students learned how to use a 3-D printer. After watching a short clip from PBS’s “Design Squad” where a young boy made a 3-D prosthetic hand, a team of 12 students were inspired to work with elementary technology teacher Jenny Haynes to be part of the Prosthetic Kids Hand Challenge.

The school’s elementary technology program provides first- through sixth-graders with a solid foundation of technology skills to be incorporated across disciplines as classroom teachers expand their use of instructional technology in teaching and learning.

“Today, technology is in the hands of the smallest of children. I have great satisfaction knowing that I am not only teaching my students how to use technology, but how to use it responsibly and purposefully,” Haynes said. “We want to provide our students the skills to navigate the digital world safely, responsibly, and respectfully. In my class, we spend time learning not only about technology skills and tools that can be applied across all disciplines, but also about the importance of digital citizenship and understanding our digital footprint that we leave for all to see.”

Haynes shares more about the project.

Q: What is the Prosthetic Kids Hand Challenge?

A: I learned about the Prosthetic Kids Hand Challenge from their website. The whole idea was inspired by kids wanting to change another child’s life for the better, just by being creative and using a 3D printer to create something productive and impactful.

Q: Why did these students want to participate?

A: All of the students were very excited to be part of this project. They had the opportunity to work collaboratively with other students in their grade level. The experience was fun, interactive, and they were excited to know their work would be benefiting another child in such a big way.

Q: How did participation in this challenge enhance class lessons?

A: The engineering design process has applications across many different disciplines, which is why you see it used most prominently in spaces like our STEAM labs and technology special.

Students learn how to think, create, solve problems and design by applying knowledge they’ve gained in other subject areas. I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to allow my students to put their energy and thoughts into helping others through their experience with how a 3D printer works.

Q: How did they make the prosthetic hand?

A: To begin, the team researched the Enable the Future website (which hosts the hand challenge project) to explore how to put the hand together and decide how to share the work among the 12 students. The website provided step-by-step instructions and how-to videos from other students who have put hands together.

As part of the project, the students learned how to download a pre-designed file, print it, separate the pieces and then try to put the pieces together collaboratively.

Q: What did the students learn?

A: This project provided students an opportunity to be empowered learners, innovative designers and global collaborators in alignment with the national technology student standards we follow in Lakota classrooms.

Throughout the project, there were problems to solve and even a couple of times where we needed to make adjustments to the hand for stability, which created a beautiful learning experience. We also discussed the importance of perseverance when working together and trying again if things didn’t quite work out as we thought they should.

Q: What will happen to the hand?

A: We recently shipped the complete 3-D prosthetic hand to Enable the Future, where it will be inspected to ensure it functions properly, and then displayed along with other hands created from around the world.

Once the challenge has ended, the hands will be sent to children who need them.

Q: Why do you think it is important for the students to see how they can use engineering to help others in need?

A: The engineering design process is a series of steps that engineers follow when they are trying to solve a problem and design a solution for something; it is a methodical approach to problem-solving. Kids are naturally inquisitive and eager to help others. This project gave my students a sense of purpose. Incorporating a solution for a real world problem was icing on the cake. The entire process created excitement and curiosity to see how students can use technology to change the life of another child.

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Contact this contributing writer at lisa.knodel@gmail.com.