Helping children who have lost hands in landmine explosions and other accidents has inspired students from a high school south of Brisbane to engage in engineering.
Year 8 students from Mabel Park State High School at Logan have assembled a dozen prosthetic hands for children in developing countries.
The prosthetics are a claw-like device made of plastic, with three fingers on the top and two below.
The device uses adjustable straps, similar to the ones found on backpacks, to attach to the limb of an amputee victim and allow them to grip a pen or spoon.
Students helping students
Year 8 student Georgia Angat said it was a challenge to make the hands.
“I need to make sure there is no knots or twists,” she said.
“I like doing this because I get to make a hand and lend it to someone in need and it just makes you happy to help someone — that little problem they have can just be fixed by us building them a hand.”
Georgia said being involved was fuelling thoughts of her future career, saying she felt like she could “use this lesson [in building things] in my life generally”.
“I’m not sure yet, but I think I could work somewhere in technology,” she said.
“I feel like I want to build stuff for people like this.”
Student Alesyia Freeman has written a heartfelt message on a pencil case containing a prosthetic hand.
“My dad wanted me to be an engineer,” Alesyia said.
“It was fun and it helps other people.
“I kind of understand now that some other people have some problems and I can actually help them … by just making a hand.”
Amputee students can continue their education
Organiser and Origin Foundation volunteer Ruth Lee said this allowed amputee students to write and continue their education.
“There was a young man who had fallen from a tree and had hurt his arm,” Ms Lee said.
“Because he didn’t have access to the right kind of medical attention, his arm became infected and the result became an amputation.
“He was fitted with one of these prosthetic limbs and that is really allowing him to live much more of a normal life.”
The Helping Hands Program has already created 14,000 artificial limbs.
The majority of these have gone to people in India, where most of the recipients had lost a hand through electrocution.
But, today’s handmade hands could be sent to children in Afghanistan who had accidently set off a landmine.
The Helping Hands Program said it was a growing market, with 2,000 landmine accidents every month, equal to one every 20 minutes.
The organisation estimated one in five of those injured were children.
An engineering lesson
The class is taught by qualified engineers, like Ms Lee, who has a Masters of Engineering.
“We start the lesson talking to them about the anatomic structure of the hand, so the bone structure and nerve system within the hand,” Ms Lee said.
“[The construction] is reasonably complex, so they will perhaps experience using an Allen key for the first time.”
The hope is that some of the students, who may have never thought of pursuing a career in science, might take another look at engineering.
“Many students think engineering is just about building the tallest building … they have never really thought about bio-medical engineering,” Ms Lee said.
“Engineering really has the capacity to make a huge change in the world.”
Mabel Park State High School maths and science teacher Stacey King said an added benefit of the program was connecting students with people who work in the science and technology field.
“I think sometimes it is quite abstract when you’re talking about STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] … they don’t necessarily know how it applies to future careers,” Ms King said.
“It is really good to have those experts come in and explain what it looks like at the end of their educational journey.”
The lesson has had an impact on 13-year-old Dean Kilpatrick, who now wants to follow his brother and become an engineer.
Dean said he liked making the hands as it helped others “make a better life for themselves”.
“It is quite challenging, especially when you had to get a pin inside of a hole — it was really hard,” he said.
“When I thought of engineering I thought of bridges and big buildings and aircrafts or something, but things like this, it is actually pretty fun.
“My brother, he’s in Dubai, he is a civil engineer.”
Topics: people, human-interest, disabilities, health, charities-and-community-organisations, community-and-society, public-schools, secondary-schools, schools, education, slacks-creek-4127, brisbane-4000, qld, australia