Robohand Project – Students Building A 3D-Printed Mechanical Hand

My name is Rich Lehrer and I am an 8th grade science teacher at Brookwood School in Manchester, MA. Over the course of the 2013/2014 school year, I have created a club comprised of thirteen 8th graders from my school and they have been working with me and a senior from The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, MA to build a mechanical prosthesis called a “Robohand” for my son, Max.

Max was born in 2010 without fingers on his right hand and this invention allows him to grasp and pick up things with this hand. In 2012, a South African designer (Richard Van As) and an American engineer (Ivan Owen) partnered to design the Robohand. They have made the 3D-printable plans for their invention open source and downloadable by anyone. The students in my Robohand Club have done the following things:

1. Found and worked with Arjun Bhatnagar, the student from The Governor’s Academy who runs their 3D printing program, who printed the pieces for us, and helped us build the hand
2. Tracked down thermoplastic material from Boston Brace who made a generous donation to our project, and
3. Worked with the Head of Maintenance at our school to track down all of the necessary hardware needed to build the hand.

Once we had all the necessary components, we spent several months constructing the hand and in April, 2014, we were able to have Max try it for the first time. This video shows Max’s response to both seeing his Robohand for the first time and documents his first attempts to use it, including the first time he successfully grasped an object (a small plastic block) with his Robohand, my to the delight of the students (and me!). Although we have much more work to do, this initial success has been absolutely inspirational for all in our community, for my son, for me, and of course for the wonderful students involved in this real life project.

Does your school do something similar?

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