Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Lend a Helping Hand: Kids helping other Kids

I became interested in 3D printing about 6 years ago when one of my grade 2 students told me about an idea she had. She was writing about and drawing pictures of a Leperchaun trap. She said that she could see it in her mind. She wanted to create a prototype that she could hold in her hands. It was that conversation that got me thinking about design and creation using 3 dimensional technology.

Two years after that conversation I had a 3D printer in my grade 4 classroom. It tuned out to be an amazing year of learning! We documented our journey - you can read all about it at https://21c3d.blogspot.com/. I remember hearing about 3D printed prosthetics back then and I tried to connect with people so that my students could help out but we had no luck. I thought it would be a great social justice project for my students but it wasn't meant to be.

Fast forward to this school year (three years later) where I stumbled upon Valerie Perez's twitter account (@3rdgrade_STEAM) which led me to "Enabling the Furture" (@Enablethefuture): a global network of volunteers using 3D printers to provide people with prosthetic hands. I checked the website out and learned about the great work that Enabling the Future is doing. I brought it to my student's attention and told them what my students and I tried to do years ago. They thought it would be a great learning experience to try and print a test prosthetic so we started our learning journey.

One of the first things we had to do is figure out which hand to print. Once we made our decision, I started looking for the files to print so we could start putting the hand together. I had difficulty finding files that were compatible with our printer so I reached out to Doug Braden (Chief Technology Officer at Inksmith) to ask for help - and he did!! After a couple of days of printing we were happy to share with our twitter followers.

The day after the above tweet, we had the hand assembled and my students wanted to share a little bit about our journey.

After pushing this out we got some responses. All of them were complementary but one of them really got me thinking. I was asked how I am convincing people that primary students did this?

My class and I are doing this together. Parts of the project are more appropriate for me to deal with rather than the students. Having said that, I don't feel that I need to convince anyone of anything. I talked a little bit about this on a podcast, you can hear my response to the question here:

The work we are doing is much deeper than printing parts and putting them together. Of course, that part of this project is necessary but it isn't where I would like to spend our focus. My hope is that the students remember our work as a service to others, the importance of learning (especially the hard parts that we have to overcome), and that they don't need to wait to make a difference in this world. Using the technology we have at our hands, we can help other kids and hopefully lend them a hand.