Sumter Students Use 3D Printer to Create Prosthetic Hands

Sumter, SC (WLTX) — In just a few hours, students at Alice Drive Middle School in Sumter are changing strangers lives forever.

The STEM Certified school was granted a 3D printer last year. Rather than use it to make items for themselves to enjoy, Library Media Specialist Elma Strong chose to partner with the nonprofit E-Nable and start making prosthetic hands.

“When I first heard about it, it just gives you the feeling, a great feeling inside,” Strong says. We’re giving back and hopefully we can give back to the community as well, there may be someone in need locally.”

“You look at this and you see a bunch of plastic and strings and you don’t think that they’ll be able to do their day-to-day life with it, but they can and it’s really cool,” says 7th grader, Madelyn Jordan.

“Think about a child who wants to ride a bike and can’t hold both handlebars,” adds 7th grader, Ty Mitchell. “With this hand, they can play any sports, ride any bike they want to.”

The Hearts to Hands Club walked News19 through the process from start to finish on Friday.

“First we choose our color and we put it in a 3D printer and it goes through the steps of the process to be made,” says 7th grader, Anne Jackson Scott. “Then we go and peel it off and take the parts apart and we start putting them together.”

Once they’re completed, the hands are inspected before they’re matched with a child. The Hearts to Hands Club chose to focus on making the prosthetics for three and four year olds, a choice that Jordan says is extremely rewarding.

“It feels really good because you know that you get to help somebody have a better life and you know that they’re suffering because you can only do so much with one hand,” says Jordan.

The students hope to use the 3D printer in more ways that give back, like making limbs for animals. Mitchell says no goal is too big or too small, and the middle school students are proving just that.

“It feels like we can show people it’s not a certain age you have to be to do anything, anyone can do anything,” Mitchell says. “Any age, any size, any race.”

The group doesn’t know who most of the prosthetic hands will be sent to, but does know that one will go to a little girl in China who was born without fingers. They plan to Skype with her as she’s trying the hand on at the doctor’s office to see their creation’s effect firsthand.