Summer STEAM program ends with presentation of 3-D-printed prosthetic hands

Three youngsters received prosthetic hands custom-made by students in WNY STEM’s “Hand in Hand Powered by AT&T” program. From left, recipient Caedan Muldoon and his father; recipient Katelyn McCarthy and her father and sister; Kevin Hanna from AT&T; Michelle Kavanaugh of WNY STEM; Matt Jones and Pat Harrington from AW Miller; recipient Liam Hilliker and his parents; and Ed Hawkins, “Hand in Hand’s” lead teacher.
Life-changing. Surprising. Inspiring. These were some of the words enrolled students used to describe the experience they had designing prosthetic hands for children in need using 3-D printing technology as part of the “Hand in Hand Powered by AT&T” science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) experience organized by WNY STEM and AT&T.
In a special ceremony at Roswell Park Cancer Institute on Tuesday, the prosthetic hands were presented to Katelyn McCarthy, 9, of Derby; Caedan Muldoon, 5, of Lackawanna; and Liam Hilliker, 4, of Irving. A fourth prosthetic hand is being sent to enhance the quality of life for a child in India.
Katelyn’s mother, Amy McCarthy, said, “Getting this prosthetic arm will give Katelyn the opportunity to have access to something when doing everyday tasks where she may need some assistance. It will allow her to be more independent. We are so grateful to be part of this project and we thank all the teachers and students for all their hard work!”
The students in the program gained valuable experience exploring biomedical
technology and obtaining insight into working with otherwise-abled youth.
Felice Masumbuko, a junior from Lackawanna High School, was one of the 15 project team leaders. He said, “Thanks to this program, I was able to ‎interact with different types of people with different perspectives and learn from each and everyone one of them. I also learned how to apply my knowledge to certain tasks I have never done before.”
Among the guests at the presentation were City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, who said, “WNY STEM, AT&T and all of their partners continue to do a fantastic job introducing Buffalo’s youth to the fast-growing world of digital technology, and showing them a potential career path that is not only financially rewarding, but one that can make a significant difference in other people’s lives. Congratulations to all the students who took part in the ‘Hand in Hand’ project and to the three young people who will be receiving prosthetic hands through this program.”
Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes said, “STEM has the ability to not only provide sustainable careers, but the ability to also impact people’s lives in ways that we can’t even imagine. Today’s presentation is a perfect example. I am so very proud of our students, teachers and volunteers for their efforts, and sincerely hope that the recipients are able to continue living fulfilled lives.”
The 30 students enrolled in “Hand in Hand” worked in teams learning and mastering engineering, design and prototype fabrication from technology teachers Ed Hawkins of Sweet Home Senior High School, and Leif Johnson of Lancaster Middle School. The advisers said they were inspired by the students’ enthusiasm for this project and the challenges faced by the recipients.
Hawkins stated, “I applied to be lead teacher because my skillset includes 3-D printing and teaching, and I thought this would be a nice real-world project. What I didn’t anticipate and what has become much more important is the aspect of service to others, appreciation for other people’s challenges, and realizing that these are great kids that could just use a little help.”
The free “Hand in Hand” program exposed students – primarily from local, urban middle and high schools – to basic knowledge of anatomy and careers in medical technology, plus fundamental technology skills in 3-D printing, engineering design, computer coding and advanced fabrication, plus leadership training and service learning.
Students used online open source resources provided by e-NABLE, an online global community made up of individuals from all over the world who are utilizing 3-D printers to create free 3-D fabricated hands and arms for those in need of an upper limb assistive device. The community collaborates on ways to help improve the open source 3-D printable designs for hands and arms for those who were born missing fingers or who have lost them due to war, disease or natural disaster.
AW Miller, an industry leader in industrial 3-D printing, completed the final fabrication of each prosthetic hand created by the students on the company’s state-of-the-art 3-D printers to ensure they were created with the most advanced structural integrity for the recipient children’s prolong use.
In her remarks, WNY STEM Executive Director Cherie Messore thanked several occupational therapists, engineer, and business leaders who participated in the program for meeting the students and sharing insight into different STEM and STEAM career pathways. She said, “Encouraging students – tomorrow’s workforce – through engaging service learning projects enlightens students about career options and encourages their personal growth to become exemplars in society.”
Innovative education projects like this are a priority for AT&T, said Kevin Hanna, director of external affairs.
“AT&T is proud to have been able to collaborate with WNY STEM and the other organizations to develop and support this incredible opportunity for local students to see firsthand how technology can be used to create life-changing solutions for those who live with disabilities and ailments,” he said. “As the world’s economy continues to transform at a robust pace – requiring a workforce with a focus on technological education and literacy – STEM and STEAM programs like this one that provide immersive learning environment are vital to ensure that students are equipped with the skills so they are able to compete in today’s innovation economy.”
AT&T’s partnership with WNY STEM to create this initiative, and $20,000 contribution to fund the program, is part of the company’s legacy of supporting educational programs focused on STEM disciplines in New York through AT&T Aspire. The company’s signature, $400 million philanthropic initiative drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue, including funding, technology, employee volunteerism and mentoring. Aspire is one of the nation’s largest corporate commitments, focused on school success and workforce readiness by creating new learning environments and educational delivery systems to help students succeed and prepare them to take on 21st century careers.
“Hand in Hand” is a program of the WNY STEM Hub and AT&T, with collaborating partners the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, Health Sciences Charter School, the University at Buffalo Center for Integrated Global Biomedical Sciences, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and AW Miller of East Aurora.


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