Student Makers Create Solution for Kids in Need - Digital Promise

Student Makers Create Solution for Kids in Need

As part of HP and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom initiative, Digital Promise Global is directing a global network of Learning Studios designed for student-centered, experiential learning. Each Learning Studio is equipped with powerful technology for creation and collaboration.

This is a story from the Learning Studio at Peoria High School in Peoria, Arizona.

Seventeen-year-old Quentin Ellis was cleaning up after Sunday Mass when he noticed a member of his church using a new prosthetic arm. She had recently upgraded from a hook prosthesis to a mechanical arm.

Curious about her new arm, Quentin struck up a conversation with her. She shared how it was initially difficult for her to adjust to using a prosthesis after having lost her biological arm to disease. After a number of years using the hook prosthesis, she also found it challenging to transition to her new mechanical arm. This conversation inspired Quentin to think about the emotional difficulties facing children who need a prosthetic arm.

Quentin brought this idea to his Learning Studio within Peoria Unified School District’s Medical, Engineering and Technology (MET) Academy Program. He partnered with his classmate Lucas Bacon to develop an idea for a kid-friendly prosthetic arm. Quentin recalled, “We came up with the idea of building a prosthetic arm that could be built by the kid—like a Lego kit—to give them the chance to see how it’s made, make it a lot less scary and also give them the chance to be excited about it, and teach them a little bit of engineering, too.”

Quentin says he and Lucas created their first prototypes out of “balsa wood, glue, tape, and hope.” They are now working on 3D printing their design by modifying an open-sourced design of a prosthetic arm. They have already 3D printed the open-sourced design in plastic and plan to print their custom design in early 2017.


Quentin and Lucas’ 3D printed prototype. Photo courtesy of Darrell Kidd.

Quentin and Lucas appreciate how the tools in the Learning Studio make it possible for them to rapidly design and create 3D models in just a matter of days. This allows them to test ideas and iterate quickly.

They also appreciate how the Learning Studio gives them a space to pursue their own interests, while adding real value to other people’s lives.

“[The Learning Studio] allows me to do what I have interest in and, in this case, it is helping people,” Lucas said. “I enjoy it because I think it’s the right thing to do—if I have the ability to help, then I should.”

“Making is the core of this class, but that’s not the only thing we learn here,” Quentin said. “[We learn] leadership skills, we learn how to sell our product, we learn how to present ourselves when speaking publicly. It doesn’t teach us how to just do the one project, but how to go about life in general.”

Quentin and Lucas with their first three prototypes. Photo courtesy of Darrell Kidd.

Quentin plans to continue focusing on prosthetics when he studies biomedical engineering at Arizona State University next year. Lucas intends to study software development after graduating from Peoria High School in the spring. In the meantime, the two are seeking partnerships with clinics and prosthetics manufacturers for their current design.

To follow Quentin and Lucas’ project and the projects of their Learning Studio classmates, follow @PeoriaMET on Twitter.

For more information about what students are creating in the Learning Studio, browse the Learning Studios Project Gallery.

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