Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Reaching Out

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Reaching Out

Article excerpt

Sometimes humanity is just as important as science.

That was the real lesson for three Mt. Lebanon High School students, who made a prosthetic hand - using less than $4 in materials - for a local 10-year-old boy as part of their final project for an Honors Applied Engineering class.

"They are very compassionate, and that's why I wanted them to take on the project," teacher Andrew Kuskil said about his students - Taylor Ransford, 17, a junior, and Cameron Taylor, 16, and Robert Donahue, 15, both sophomores.

Mr. Kuskil said the project became "an amazing teacher moment" for him because the boys were able to learn that science and high-tech equipment, like 3-D printers, are more than just instruments and learning tools.

"Doing the technology is one thing, but being able to relate to the little boy was amazing," Cissy Bowman, district spokeswoman, said. "They aren't occupational therapists and they've never done anything like this before, but they were so kind and put him at ease."

The boys worked with Peter Kail, a fourth-grader at St. Bernard School in Mt. Lebanon. Peter, the son of Staci and Michael Kail of Mt. Lebanon, was born without a left hand and had never used a prosthetic.

Mrs. Kail approached the high school, where her older son Michael is a sophomore, last year about the possibility of using a 3-D printer to make a prosthetic hand for Peter.

"We weren't really ready for it last year, when it was first proposed," Mr. Kuskil said. "But I knew they were ready for a higher level project that was more challenging this year."

Although Mrs. Kail thought she would have to supply the plans and material for the prosthetic, the boys offered to design and make the hand themselves.

They used filament purchased at a discount online, then raided pantries and sewing baskets at home for bits of plastic, fabric fastener, felt and metal - along with pieces of string - to create a movable, flexible prosthetic hand for just $3. …

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