- Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Ryan Draper enjoys the complication of fixing cars, and he loves hands-on projects.

Now he’s putting that skill set to use.

The Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1TwRFOa ) reports that Ryan, a Greene County Tech senior, and junior Zach Poe have created a prosthetic hand. It’s designed for an 8-year-old child.

The teens decided to build the prosthetic hand two weeks into school at Northeast Arkansas Career and Technical Center in Jonesboro. They said they liked the challenge it presented.

It was the first time students of Rick Barker, their advanced manufacturing instructor, have attempted to build a prosthetic hand for someone else.

“It tickled me to death,” Barker said. “I am excited to see their involvement. That’s what makes the job worth it. We’re all about cultivating intelligence.”

Barker also introduced them to Enabling the Future, a global nonprofit that he recently learned of through the center’s director Eddie Crain.

Enabling the Future is a network of volunteers who use their own resources and skills to create free 3D-printed prosthetic hands for those in need.

The nonprofit, created in 2013, connects the volunteers to those in need. According to its website, it has delivered about 1,500 prosthetic hands, mostly to children.

“I’ve been worried since we started we wouldn’t do it right,” 16-year-old Zach said. “It’s humbling to know you did something useful with the knowledge you are getting at school.

“It’s taught both of us to keep going even when nothing is going right,” he added.

Seventeen-year-old Ryan agreed, saying it is amazing that just a few weeks of work will help someone else because he or she could use the hand for several years.

“When the hand wears out, then another group of kids will build a new hand for the child,” he added.

The project started with Ryan reading nearly 800 pages of research. He said he put the hand together and figured out the software.

Zach was in charge of the 3D printing, which included quite a bit of repair work. At one point, he said his entire head and shoulders were inside the printer as he tried to figure out what exactly was wrong.

He spent three to four weeks calibrating the printer. The majority of the hand was 3D printed - it took about 45 minutes to create each finger and eight hours to create the palm.

Their work with the 3D printer did not go unnoticed. Barker said the printers come with the job.

“You have to learn how to repair it, and they did quite a good job,” he added.

Of all of their work, the teens acknowledge getting the 3D printer to work was the most challenging. Zach said he is proud to be able to say he fixed the printer, even if it took him a long time.

“The neatest thing to me was when I realized we were 10 minutes away from finishing the project,” Ryan said. “I wish we had filmed it, because we’d have a long reel of bloopers.”


Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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