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Middle school students creating prosthetic hand

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Feb 20 2014 04:34:05 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 20 2014 10:14:16 PM CST
BRISTOL, Va. -

Modern prosthetics help people who've lost limbs lead normal lives, and the technology keeps growing and changing.

Bristol, Virginia Middle School Tech Ed students are using a 3-D printer to create a robotic hand; they're now beginning to design and make fingers to help a local college student.

Terry Colley speaks to Bristol Middle School Tech Ed students about modern orthotics and prosthetics. He knows on a personal level just how far they've come in recent years and how it has helped him -- he's worn some type of prosthetic since he was one year old.

"[I'm here to] be able to tell them about prosthetics, to let them touch them, feel them, and get a sense to know what they are. I'm letting them know that somebody that has a prosthetic, they're essentially not disabled. They might have a disability, but that doesn't make them disabled," Colley said.

The students are looking at the prosthetics from both an engineering eye as well as just how much they cost. The students intend to create fingers for Amber Brooks, a local college student who lost her legs and two fingers from a disease when she was two. "I've never had fingers before so its really exciting," Brooks said. "I don't really remember having legs, so to me it's just normal. I don't think it was difficult."

She's visiting so students can measure her fingers and then design and make new ones using their 3-D printer. The printer was provided by a grant from Bristol, Virginia Utilities and the Chamber of Commerce as a teaching tool.

With this venture, the students have a chance to really make a difference according to teacher Debbie Browning. "They're fascinated by it. To be able to really help someone, to do something at that age, it's going to make an impact on somebody like that," she said. "It just grabs them. They have such great empathy. They're just really into it."

If they're successful, the cost will be nearly nothing for Amber. "If they can help people that couldn't afford it any other way, that will do a lot. That'll make them feel good, and I think it will do good," she said.

Besides their goodwill, what they're learning is truly breaking some new ground.

We'll continue to check in with the class to see how their prosthetics are working to change lives.